On 19 April 2017, Australia’s first rescued food supermarket, known as the OzHarvest Market, opened its doors in the neighbourhood of Kensington located in Sydney’s southern suburbs. According to its website, it is “Stocked with produce that has either been donated or would otherwise go to waste.”
The concept breaks away and moves beyond the ‘sell-by’ and ‘use-by’ labels concept used on food items by other major Australian supermarkets, such as Coles and Woolworths. The pop-up grocery store, which will remain open for as long as the site it is located on is available, is using a different approach to tackle food waste which costs an estimated $20 billion per year in Australia.
The store provides everything for free to those who cannot afford to pay for it. Others can donate an amount of their own choice. Products available range from fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, tinned goods, frozen meals, drinks, toiletries to other home products. What is presented on the supermarket shelves will look different from week to week depending on what food items are salvaged and what others are donated.
The entrepreneur responsible for establishing the OzHharvest Market, Ronni Khan, has been quoted on the Sydney’s Broadsheet website, as saying “Every time we save good food, we help the planet. Every time we take that food and feed hungry people, we address social issues.”
OzHarvest Market is located just below the site of the Addison Project which provides pop-up accommodation for vulnerable youth. TOGA, the property developer has made the entire initiative possible, by donating property to innovative social enterprises like the OzHarvest Market and others.
Food waste is a global problem which Australia is not immune from. Australian consumers waste around 20% of food purchased every year. That is equivalent to one in every five shopping bags of food being thrown away. The majority of this food waste, weighing up to four million tonnes, generally ends up in landfill sites where it decomposes and emits methane, a greenhouse gas dangerous to both humans and the environment.
Yet, despite this high level of wastage, many Australians still experience periods of hunger, and one in six Australians have reported experiencing food insecurity at least once in the past twelve months. The OzHarvest Market is responding to this challenge in a unique way. Khan states that “We rescue food that can’t be sold by the supermarkets and food retailers due to it being past its use-by date, but which is still perfectly good to eat.” He adds that “If something is expired, that’s no reason to toss it away.”
The success of the concept relies on a network of more than 2,500 food donors who uphold the freshness of food above everything else. Often, it is the case that just because a food item has a freckle or a bruise, or even a mislabelled box, it results in that item being thrown out when it is still perfectly edible and safe. Khan comments that “Everything we do is not about profit, it’s about purpose.”
OzHarvest Market already has plans for expansion both locally within Sydney and nationally. Khan believes the model is replicable and says “We totally believe this will be a catalyst to other property developers. We have the capacity to take it around the country, if all the forces come together. This is a duplicable model. Hopefully, down the track, there will be a free farmers market in every state.”
With food wastage being a problem not only faced by Australia, it might just be a matter of time, before the OzHarvest Market concept is also replicated internationally.
Image courtesy of Flickr. Originally published by S&S on November 21, 2017.