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Did you know that Nationally 40% of fruits and vegetables grown in Australia never make it to the produce shelf, on top of that, one fifth of the food we are buying is being thrown in the bin.
This translates to a staggering $8 billion of food every year that is transferred straight to landfill.
Food waste is a global issue but it also affects us all locally. We may not see it but our local grocers, bakeries and supermarkets are throwing out an unimaginable amount of perfectly edible food every week.
Big Supermarkets have adopted fresh produce grading systems based solely on the appearance of fruits and vegetables, rather than taste or nutrition.
Food is also given an expiration date and yes the ‘Use By’ date is required by law but only for certain types of food such as dairy. However you might not know that the ‘Best Before’ date has been adopted, with the hope to move more product off the shelf. We are therefore led to believe that this food is no longer edible and needs to be discarded.
So why is all of this food is waste a problem?
When this food finds itself in landfill across Australia it breaks down, releasing methane gas. This is 25 times more potent than carbon pollution from cars! It ends up in our atmosphere, compounding the greenhouse effect to our planet, not to mention its contribution to climate change.
With this amount of food going in the bin, at the same time there is 1 in 20 Australians have poor access to food and perhaps even go without a meal.
Open Table aims to address these issues of food waste and food access but this feeds into another important topic close to our hearts; the lack of social connection in the modern day neighbourhood. It's easy to live our live’s without interacting with your neighbours.
People on the margins of our community don’t just go hungry but lack the opportunity to connect with others. Open Table comes from the by the concept of collective action, believing that strong and resilient communities can truly change our relationship with food for the better.
And so here we are.
Our journey began some three years ago in the kitchen of a Brunswick share house where a motley crew of students and professionals were chatting about these issues.
We all agreed that something needed to be done and founded Open Table - a non-for-profit food distribution and social connection organisation.
What this means is simply: we rescue food waste, prepare meals with the food and serve the meals in an open and inclusive environment. All our food is free and everyone from the neighbourhood is invited
Soon after, we started running a humble little community dinner at the Brunswick Neighbourhood House. Three years later, we now run lunches and dinners on a weekly basis between five different Melbourne suburbs in community spaces.
In addition, we also aim to lift social barriers in communities. We have discovered through Open Table that food has the uncanny ability to unify us, no matter who we are or what our backgrounds may be. At a typical Open Table gathering you might find a young professional interested in food sustainability sharing ideas with a pensioner relying on supported residential services who is looking to socialise with their neighbours.
On a weekly basis one of our lovely volunteers will drive around Melbourne to collect approximately 50 kilos of food for that week’s gathering - this includes fruits, vegetables and several bags of bread donated by local businesses as well as established organisations who rescue fresh produce from supermarkets. This equates to approximately 2.5 tonnes a year.
Every weekend a group of five to six volunteers living locally will get together, spend a few hours cooking and serving up the meals buffet style with 50 - 70 people attending. We have found over time the more diverse the community the more people attending.
We have been doing this for a better part of the last three years, serving up to 200 meals per month over 5 locations.