May 26, 2010
In Bondi, people gather around food
Food and waste might appear to be very different things, but they're not all that different if the waste we're talking about is food waste.
That — food waste — was one of the topics to come up for discussion at Waverley Council's Food For Thought conversation on 13 May at the Kapito Coffee House on Bondi Road. The idea was that of Council's Food Waste Reduction Officer, Lauren Michener, who also works with the 3-Council Ecological Footprint Project that spans Waverley, Randwick and Woollahra councils.
As people at the front of the restaurant dined to the soothing sounds of a live jazz duo, food waste and local initiatives around food and sustainability formed the core of the conversation out back.
The evening started with brief addresses by local food innovator from Chippendale, Michael Mobbs; Julian Lee from the new community supported agriculture start-up, Food Connect; Nathalie Jean-Baptiste, a PhD student at Germany's Bauhaus University out here doing a comparison study of Mexico, Germany and Sydney's food waste composition and eater behaviour; and myself, Russ Grayson, associated with the national community gardens network and the Sydney Food Fairness Alliance. My job was supposed to be hosting the event but the level of interest was so high that the event more or less ran itself as a self-sustaining conversation around food.
If you imagine that food waste might be a bit of a problem, you're right. The Australian Food and Grocery Council's chief executive, Kate Carnell, says Australian households throw away more than $5 billion worth of food each year... that's right... five billion dollars worth. But what about Sydney? Well, the city is not exactly a leading light in reducing this figure. Studies show that each household's waste collection contains an average 11kg of garbage of which 5.8 kg is compostable waste, 95 percent of which is food waste.
Australia Institute research discloses that of the $5.2 billion worth of food Australians throw away every year, $1.1 billion of that total is made up of fruit and vegetables. The Institute estimates that the average Australian household throws away $616 worth of food per annum. That's a lot of money... and a lot of waste.
WASTE NOT THE ONLY FOCUS
Food For Thought was a convivial event that filled the room with local people from the Eastern Suburbs. The information they brought about the number and diversity of food initiatives that are going on here in the city east was astounding. Surely, this part of Sydney is the most active in trying new and exciting local food ideas.
There was a lot of interest, for example, in the potential of community food gardens to feed local people and to provide a safe social venue where people can meet and co-operate. Waverley, Woollahra and Randwick councils provide support to one community garden in each local government area, however the popularity of community gardening is bringing increasing requests to councils for assistance with more gardens. Woollahra Council already has a policy on community gardening and Randwick is developing one. At Food For Thought, Emma Daniell of Natural Touch Landscapes and member of Randwick Community Organic Garden, assisted in answering questions.
The motivation behind Food Connect, a social business (a business with social goals rather than just profit making) based on the community supported agriculture model, was explained by one of the people who started Food Connect Sydney, Julian Lee. Food Connect provides weekly boxes of organic and chemical-free fruit and vegetables, grown mainly in the Sydney region, to subscribers in Randwick, Bondi and Woollahra. It's a new local food initiative and one that that responds to the growing demand for safe, tasty food for families and individuals.
These were just a couple of the local food initiatives that were highlighted at Food For Thought. There were others, such as Our Big Kitchen, a community kitchen operated by a Jewish organisation and open to all, Sydney Organic Buyers Group, the soon-to-be Rhubarb Food Co-op (presently searching for shopfont premises), food growing on the suburban street verge and ideas from a new organisation focusing on the building of local community resilience, Transition Bondi.
Food For Thought was a new type of initiative for Waverley Council as it took Council's sustainable education program beyond the council premises. Over the finger food that was circulated by Katipo's staff, we learned things about food that were new and exciting and, to judge by the hum of conversation that went on well after the formal part of the evening was over, more than a few productive contacts were made.
...Written by Russ Grayson
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Rhubarb Food Co-op (The Rhubarb Food Coop meet every two weeks at Barrett House)
Australia Institute - information on food waste
Love Food Hate Waste - planning better, shopping smarter and storing food effectively