Rescuing surplus food

Tuesday, 13 January, 2009

FareShare, a not-for-profit organisation that rescues surplus food to prepare healthy meals for Melbourne's hungry and homeless, has released a new report quantifying the environmental benefits of its waste reduction efforts.

The report, Sustainability gains through the recovery of unsold or off-specification food — produced with Sustainability Victoria and Hyder Consulting — estimates FareShare will save 620 tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2008–09.

This is the annual equivalent of switching off 953 refrigerators a year. The waste reduction associated with our large-scale food recovery program has significant benefits for the environment, said FareShare CEO Marcus Godinho.

For every kilogram of food recovered, FareShare will also save 56 L of water. This is a significant saving when you consider it takes a farmer 70 L of water to produce an apple, 135 L for an egg and 800 L for a large steak.

The results were measured using FareShare's new MS Excel calculator that can measure the savings in water, landfill, energy and greenhouse gas emissions of 40 food ingredients.

Businesses can make a significant difference to the environment by giving away their surplus food to FareShare. The calculator will allow them to actually quantify the environmental benefits of their donations, said Godinho.

Food is collected that would otherwise be wasted from growers, manufacturers, wholesale markets, caterers, major retailers and hospitality schools. All types of food are accepted with a preference for pastry, meat, cheese and vegetables. A large quantity of uncooked food is redistributed directly to charities.

Heinz offers surplus produce including sauces, condiments and dressings that can be added to make pasta meals, stews and casseroles. It also donates other products such as tomato sauce, tinned soup, tuna and some fruit juices.

As a result of a significant increase in demand for emergency food relief, the organisation has recently moved into a new kitchen. Its new ovens have the capacity to produce 1500 pies, quiches and pastries an hour, which is 10 times the capacity of its previous kitchen.

Hyder Consulting instigated the project and designed the calculator.

Peter Allan, Hyder Consulting's principal consultant, said, "Our analysis has identified the clear environmental benefits of food recovery and its diversion from landfill. These environmental benefits will continue to grow as other organisations follow the lead of companies, such as Heinz, in supporting FareShare."

To download the full report, or for more information on how to donate food to FareShare, visit


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