Food For Thought

Experience 

One of the most enlightening and rewarding experiences through the Mayor’s Student Ambassador Program is with OzHarvest. Students begin the day with an overview of the charity and its origins, and that includes some cold hard facts about food waste and its cost to the community.

The first real eye opener is the amount of food wasted in this country. One in every five grocery bags purchased in Australia ultimately ends up in the bin. That equates to $3,800 worth of groceries wasted per household every year, but not all waste can be solely attributed to consumers. For example, 40% of all bananas grown in Australia are thrown away. Some are discarded at the farm due to cosmetic imperfections and the demands from supermarkets for superior fruit, while others that make it to households are left to become overripe and are then tossed away.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect about food waste is the realisation that it is a major contributor to climate change. It’s estimated that waste is responsible for eight percent of global emissions. And while these big picture statistics can be very disturbing, the real reason Ronni Kahn founded OzHarvest was born from more personal circumstances.

The former events company owner began to question the large volumes of food being thrown away after hosting functions and wanted to find a solution to the problem. Ronni’s compassionate nature led her to Sydney’s homeless shelters where she hand-delivered untouched food to help feed our most vulnerable in society. Now OzHarvest feeds many thousands of people right across Australia every day with an army of staff and volunteers.

Jess, Kelly and Ken get busy in the kitchen

Volunteers  

One of those volunteers is Terri Taylor, a retired chef who once ran her own cooking school and has been with OzHarvest now for four years.

“On the first day I volunteered they found out I was a chef and they offered me a job! So now I’m on staff, but I still volunteer as well. The most satisfying aspect of working at OzHarvest is that you see a result straight away.  The food gets rescued, we then cook it and then it goes straight out to the people that need it – so it’s instant gratification,” Terri explains.

Terri Taylor shows Ken how to make ricotta cheese from scratch

 Like Terri, Paul Vojtisek is also a former chef who now devotes much of his time and experience towards helping OzHarvest.

 “I’ve been really interested in the concept of food waste for some time and after I retired I decided to volunteer for OzHarvest after reading an article about Ronni Kahn. I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I’m helping people in need within our community. I also enjoy working with the volunteers that come into the kitchen, getting them interested in food and passing on the basic learning skills so they can cook for themselves rather than buying takeaway all the time,” he says.

Twisha and Kimmy making fresh pasta.

Those skills were imparted to an eager collective of Mayor’s Student Ambassadors as they donned aprons and started preparing meals in the OzHarvest kitchen. The day’s menu included fresh pasta made from scratch with a napoli sauce and parmesan cheese; filo pastry triangles filled with green vegetables and ricotta cheese (also made from scratch); broccoli slice with quinoa and camembert cheese; as well as banana and coconut cake topped with toasted walnuts and rice pudding with baked apples for dessert.

The Ambassadors created around 200 meals for those in need during the session - and that doesn't include dessert!

Paul Vojtisek helps Olivia and Luisa prepare food for packing using eco friendly containers

Wonderful experience

Shanice Saavedra, a Filipino student at Entrepreneur Education, was one of the Ambassadors helping out and says it was a wonderful experience.  

“I’ve really enjoyed cooking with friends today and I’ve never made pasta before. This is so cool, I feel like a chef now! What they’re doing here is really amazing. The impact isn’t just for one person or one family that needs food, it’s an entire community. It makes you realise how lucky you are to be able to freely buy food from a supermarket or enjoy a meal with friends, but there are many people who are far less fortunate who don’t get to enjoy those simple pleasures,” she says.

Nico Hein, who is studying Heavy Commercial Vehicle Technology at TAFE, enjoys cooking and was somewhat moved by the work OzHarvest are doing in the community.

“Water, food and shelter are the basic necessities of life, so this is a wonderful charity to be involved with. I love to cook, but my chef skills have improved considerably already. I’d be more than happy to work in this kitchen all day and I’d do it with a big smile upon my face. I just love doing this.” 

Nico Hein says he'd be happy to work in the OzHarvest kitchen all day.

In the case of Indian student Dhruv Padmakumar, it was Ronni Kahn’s ability to persuade governments to change the laws governing the redistribution of food that really impressed him.

“Discovering today that not only does OzHarvest redistribute food to people in need, but that they were able to impact legislation by getting laws changed that would allow them to distribute the food is very impressive. It’s incredible because you rarely hear about NFP’s being able to influence a change in legislation like that,” he says.

Service with a smile - Kelly, Jess, Dhruv and Ken.

For Charlton Brown Aged Care student Kelly Lizarazo, the impact of today’s experience has been more personally profound.

 “This has been a great opportunity to help the community. I’ve really enjoyed volunteering at OzHarvest. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve learnt so much. I’m not a good cook, but I’ve been inspired today and I want to keep volunteering here. Maybe if I come here often enough I might even become a good cook one day!”    

     

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