Since the beginning of March and in response to COVID-19 dramatic rise in demand for food relief, OzHarvest offices and chapters have rallied their teams across the country. Initially by prioritising and increasing food rescue, closely followed by creating new and innovative ways to get food to those who need it most. In this time, OzHarvest has diverted more than 6.3 million kilos of food from landfill through our food rescue operations, which equates to more than 22.1 million meals delivered to the charities we regularly support, plus an additional 274 new organisations. We have also introduced new services including hamper hubs, cooked meals and our Mobile Market.
Rallying the troops also extended to our friends in the hospitality sector or ‘Hospitality Heroes’. Working alongside OzHarvest chefs, venues, restaurants and chefs helped create thousands of meals every week for vulnerable communities. This wonderful collaboration has seen over 535,000 delicious and nutritious meals cooked with love!
With so many new people turning to food relief for the first time in their lives, we needed new ways to distribute food to these groups. Pop-up ‘hamper hubs’ were created in easy to access locations and included pantry staples like long-life milk, pasta, rice, oats and other items in addition fresh produce. Vishnu, an international student who lost his hospitality job at the beginning of the pandemic, found relief at our Harbourside Hamper Hub in Sydney:
“I lost my job and have been living off my super but now that has run out, I am hoping now that I will find a new job. It is very good to receive food relief during these times – before I could only buy limited food because I did not have enough money. This food is a life-line, it helps me through the week.”
OzHarvest Mobile Market
There are an additional seven new vans on the road, including two OzHarvest Mobile Markets, which distribute food bags packed with fresh produce and dry stock to regional NSW communities. Many towns have families who have lost everything in bush fires, drought or floods, or are recently unemployed or living in social isolation. Julie from Bredbo said that the mobile market brought joy and hope to her town.
“On some occasions people have cried at the generosity and thoughtfulness of your organisation in providing much needed supplies of food. Some of our community have lost homes, stock and are slowing establishing themselves again. The assistance of a bag of food to help them along the way has been tremendous and a blessing to all. Single parents receiving food, elderly people feeling welcomed and appreciated, farmers feeling like they can continue. Many stories of appreciation are being heard around town.”
When Covid-19 restrictions eased in NSW and SA, our education programs were back on track in no time and Nourish classes in Sydney and Adelaide classes have just 8 weeks to go before graduation! While our NEST team cannot teach face-to-face workshops at the moment, they have been busy delivering online sessions and offering tips and tricks to more than 500 members on the NEST Facebook page! Our NEST nutrition team also helped create easy and healthy recipes for food essentials boxes distributed to families in need during lockdown.
The FEAST team made sure schools in need received valuable food hampers at the height of the pandemic, and are now busy signing up schools to run the program in term four. 50 new schools across Australia are enrolled in FEAST and with new funding secured, the team will expand the program to support schools in regional Australia, the ACT and Newcastle. Thanks to recent NSW state funding, the FEAST school food relief program can continue to support schools in low socio-economic areas with family food hampers and healthy nutritious FEAST recipes and tips. Jayna, a teacher at Oxley Park Public School said:
“The students enjoyed working in a hands-on capacity and really looked forward to their weekly FEAST cooking classes. They sat wide eyed through the food waste lessons and it was evident by the end of the program that the way they viewed food preparation, meal planning, cooking and eating had changed. We would highly recommend FEAST – it’s an enriching and fulfilling project that can start many positive ripples within a community.”
We want to thank the whole OzHarvest community, from our staff, our ‘yellow army’ of volunteers, our food donors, corporate partners and the countless people that support us – without you, we could not do any of this! Thank you for your ongoing support, ensuring OzHarvest continues to ‘Nourish our Country.’ You can help us continue this work by donating at ozharvest.org, every $1 allows OzHarvest to deliver two meals to people in need.
Click here to donate to OzHarvest today.