On December 3, a global food initiative arrives in Bangkok, uniting culinary stars and key policymakers for a good cause. Think.Eat.Save, running from noon to 2pm at Parc Paragon, brings together Chefs Duangporn Songvisava and Dylan Jones of Bo.lan with a team of chefs from Nahm, including Chris Miller. With support from food rescue organization OzHarvest, the chefs will join with UN delegates and legislators to raise awareness of the damage caused by food waste by serving free meals to 2030 people, using saved ingredients otherwise destined for the landfill.
Bangkok 101 talked with Louise Tran, Communications Manager at OzHarvest and Think.Eat.Save Project Manager, about OzHarvest’s work toward reducing global food waste for a better world.
Who spearheaded the movement to bring Think.Eat.Save to Bangkok?
In he days leading up Bangkok’s first-ever food-waste lunch on December 3, UNEP Asia Pacific, together with Save Food and UN ESCAP, will be hosting Asia Pacific leaders for a regional capacity building workshop on food waste, with Think.Eat.Save lunch as the culminating event.
How many events like Think.Eat.Save in Bangkok has OzHarvest put on in the past?
OzHarvest became the official UNEP Australian partner on its global campaign—“Think.Eat.Save – Reduce Your Foodprint”—in 2013, when we held our first public event to feed the masses “rescued” food. In 2013, OzHarvest fed 6000 people in Sydney, Adelaide, and Brisbane.
In 2015, we successfully held the event across 10 cities in Australia and fed 10,000 people free meals using food that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill. By doing this, we helped raise awareness of food waste and food security, putting sustainability at the top of peoples’ minds.
We’re now in our third year, with interest and support for the event growing enormously in Australia, as well as around the world.
What’s been the feedback?
The concept of serving thousands of members of the public a free lunch—and not only that: a free lunch made from otherwise wasted food—galvanised chefs, leaders in the food and hotel industries, manufacturers, farmers, the entire food supply chain, and members of the public.
In June 2015, we took it one step further and lobbied the Federal Australian Parliament for a tripartite commitment to set a national food waste reduction target of 50 per cent by 2025. We secured a commitment with support from the Federal Environment Minister, as well as support from across the aisles, with the Liberal National Party, Australian Labor, and the Australian Greens.
When talking about food waste, what is at stake?
The statistics are alarming. In developing Asian countries like Thailand, food waste is an emerging issue. The UN FAO states that a third of all food produced is lost or wasted along the supply chain.
The support in Bangkok from local people and businesses has been overwhelmingly positive, with many chefs and companies, large and small, quick to donate their time, goods, and networks. Most importantly, they have all put so much passion into this very new and unique concept.
With interest growing internationally, we at OzHarvest will continually share our food rescue model in order to minimise food loss and waste and eliminate hunger globally. We hope to leave a legacy in Thailand, spurring action to reduce food waste while also addressing the issue of food security.
Can you tell us more about the work of OzHarvest, especially in cooperation with the UN?
OzHarvest is the first perishable food rescue organisation in Australia that collects quality excess food from more than 2000 commercial outlets and delivers it, direct and free of charge, to more than 800 charities. To date, OzHarvest has saved 14,000 tonnes of food from the landfill, delivering the equivalent of 43 million meals of food to people in need.
Ronni Kahn founded OzHarvest in November 2004. She was later named Australia’s “Local Hero of the Year” in 2010 for her visionary efforts. From the start, we have meant serious business. Kahn and pro-bono lawyers successfully lobbied state governments in 2005 to amend legislation, allowing potential food donors to give surplus food to charitable organisations without fear of liability.
Do you have any stats and info on food waste in Thailand that you can share?
The world produces more or less sufficient food to meet the demand of its current population of 7 billion. But over 1.3 billion tonnes s of food is lost or wasted globally every year. The highest levels of food loss and waste occur in perishable crops, such as fruits, vegetables, roots, and tubers.
Post-harvest losses in fruits and vegetables across Asia and the Pacific region may be as high as 50 per cent. For rice, a staple in Thailand, they vary between 12 and 37 per cent.
Approximately 11 kilograms of food per capita per year is wasted in developing Asian countries, while an estimated 80 kilos of food per capita per year is wasted in developed Asian countries.
Food loss and waste not only have adverse impacts on the region’s food security, but also negative impacts on the environment, labour, land, water ,and other resources used in food production.
What steps can chefs and restaurateurs take to better manage inventory and cut back on waste?
Chefs have told us from the experience of planning the “food waste” lunch menu in Bangkok that they now realise how much waste is actually happening on a daily basis. Changing habits and existing practices will be a long-term commitment, but it will effect positive change.
Being aware and thinking about food waste is the first step—knowing the volume of fish trimmings and meat off cuts that are discarded, or recording how much bread ends up wasted each day.
Reducing the volume of food that is ordered, or finding an alternate use for the food product—whether by turning trimmings into another dish on the menu, or by redistributing it to local charities—is a model that we know works!
Is it difficult to convince chefs to get in on the programme?
We know chefs love and value food. And, more importantly, they hate to see food go to waste.
So to be honest, it wasn’t hard to convince chefs like Dylan and Bo of Bo.lan, David Thompson and Chris Miller from nahm, and the teams at the Metropolitan by Como, the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok, and Plaza Athénée Bangkok to get aboard the Think.Eat.Save movement.
Our venue partner, Siam Paragon, has been incredibly supportive of the movement. And leaders in the food industry and fast-growing sustainability sector have been quick to join, too.
It seems like the idea of reusing day-old food items comes with a stigma for most people. What struggles have you found in flipping this way of thinking?
When you state the facts, and present the problem—1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted globally each year, and close to 1 billion people in the world go hungry—the concept begins to make a whole lot more sense. Why are we wasting so much food when so many go without?
The aim of the Think.Eat.Save event is to challenge people’s mind-sets and pre-conceptions around “food waste” as a negative, and to look at “food waste” as a potential resource with so much value embedded. People often forget that if food is thrown out or wasted, there is also the water that goes with it, not to mention the energy, labour, fuel, and transport costs attached.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal is to halve food waste by 2030. If OzHarvest and the UNEP’s actions through Think.Eat.Save can mobilise people, leaders, and nations into action within their own homes, businesses, and countries, this is a good thing.
OzHarvest will be there to champion this cause and be a leader in the efforts to reduce global food waste, and to provide food security to people in need.
For information about the organizations, as well as the event, visit www.thinkeatsave.org.
The Three Pillars of OzHarvest
We at OzHarvest are on a mission to eliminate hunger and food waste through the redistribution of quality surplus food. Likewise, we provide a framework for food rescue that can be replicated.
Educating and raising awareness about food waste, food rescue, food security, and sustainability is central to our vision. Protecting and improving the environment through our actions matters deeply to us. Promoting nutrition education is paramount. Providing hospitality training and mentoring for disadvantaged youth drives us onwards and upwards, together.
Embracing community support for OzHarvest lies at the heart of our purpose. We offer a range of opportunities for the community to engage with our family. In turn, the goodness spreads through our family, adding purpose to peoples’ lives through meaningful action.
Why we do it?
- Australians throw out AUD 8-10 billion of food every year.
- As a nation we waste four million tonnes per annum of food which ends up in landfill.
- Australians throw out one out of every five shopping bags, which equates to every Australian household throwing out AUD 1036 worth of groceries each year.
- If food is wasted, it means that all the resources and inputs used in the production of the food are also lost. For example, it takes about 1000 litres of water to produce 1 litre of milk—and about 16,000 litres of water go into a cow’s food to make a hamburger. The resulting greenhouse gas emissions from the cows themselves, and throughout the food supply chain, all end up in vain when we waste food.
- While the planet is struggling to provide us with enough resources to sustain its 7 billion people (growing to 9 billion by 2050), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that a third of global food production is either wasted or lost. Food waste is an enormous drain on natural resources and a contributor to negative environmental impacts.