Waste not want not

Comments (0) Business Minds, Interviews

We chat with Megan Cooke from Midwaste about how we can reduce food waste in our homes and businesses.

Can you tell us a bit about Love Food Mid North Coast? 

Love Food Mid North Coast is a free program helping local families and food-based businesses reduce their food waste – saving time, money and valuable natural resources. 

There are two programs, “Food Smart” for households, and “Your Business is Food” for businesses. Both include easy, step-by-step guides to help you reduce your food waste. 

By 2050, it’s expected that the world will need to produce twice as much food in a climate that may be very different from today. It’s a global problem, but the good news is that we can all be part of the solution by making simple changes at home and work to reduce our food waste. 

Personally, what do you think about the amount of food we waste?

It surprises many people to know that one in every five shopping bags full of food ends up in the bin. What a waste!

The average family wastes almost $4,000 every year, throwing food away. That’s $10 billion worth of food binned by NSW households every year. 

And throwing food away not only wastes the food itself, but also the energy, water and natural resources used to grow, package, transport and sell it. 

Restaurants, cafés and other food businesses throw away around 30% of their food. Think about all that profit going in the bin! 

The reason I’m passionate about this work is that most of this waste could have easily been avoided.

How does the Your Business is Food Program work?

Through Your Business is Food, we provide food businesses with simple steps and handy resources to help them avoid food waste, educate staff and customers and promote their positive actions. 

The free Your Business is Food program is designed to help businesses waste less food and improve profits. 

It involves a food waste review to work out where food is being wasted. This might be due to over-ordering or throwing out perfectly good food during preparation. A lot of food is wasted due to spoilage from ineffective storage, or “plate waste” from excess serving sizes and garnishes. 

Businesses who register online can also receive resources to help engage staff and customers, an easy to follow action-plan, and support to achieve measurable success. 

We’re also encouraging diners to speak up and ask for their leftovers in a takeaway container. The good news for businesses is that a recent survey showed 71% of people would think more favourably about restaurants that offer takeaway containers for leftover food.

What steps or action plans can a business put in place to reduce waste?

When businesses sign up to Your Business is Food, they receive a simple Action Plan based on their food waste review that includes tips for Smart Ordering, Savvy Storage, Creating a Clever Menu, and Reducing Plate Waste.  

One easy idea is to offer changing Chef Specials to use up excess ingredients. Another is to label and date all food as it comes in and then store new supplies at the back, so older ingredients are used first.  

Dru from Drury Lane in Port Macquarie has always been conscious of waste as part of operating a sustainable business. He went through the Your Business is Food program recently and said it was really educational. 

“It was astonishing to see how much food we were still wasting and where we could tighten up. I can put money back in my pocket.”

How is Food Smart helping families save?

Food Smart is an interactive education program that helps families reduce food waste at home, save money and help the environment. 

It’s a free, easy program that is helping people make small, simple, changes to the way we buy, cook and save food.

Families sign up online and then complete a quick survey. Food Smart kits are available for collection from MidCoast Council. Once your family has followed the simple steps, you can share your success with us. 

It’s a great opportunity to get your kids involved, to create a lasting change to the way we think about food. 

How can we reduce food waste in our own homes? Any food saving tips?

The Food Smart program takes families through five key ways to avoid food waste. The kit provides information and ideas on how you can make significant savings by planning your meals, sticking to a shopping list, keeping it fresh, serving perfect portions and loving your leftovers.

One great tip is to change your thinking from “what do we want to eat?” to “what can we make with what we have?” If you’ve run out of ideas for that bag of green beans left in the fridge, ask Google! You can search for recipes based on the ingredients you have. How about Green Bean and Potato Salad, or a Green Thai Curry? Or get creative with a family favourite, like Bolognese, by adding things in, rather than throwing them in the bin. 

And don’t forget to take your leftovers for a tasty lunch. Leftover roast veggies make a great salad when mixed with some leaves and balsamic. And send that leftover pasta to school in a thermos container – the kids will love you for it. 

What workshops do you currently have running?

Everyone is invited to come along and learn how to put food saving tips into practice at a free Food Smart Workshop at Forster Library on 16th November and Taree Library on 30th November. Contact the library to book your spot. 

Where can we find out more information?

Love Food Mid North Coast is delivered by MidWaste, a forum of six Councils including MidCoast Council, that supports communities to reduce waste and improve resource recovery.

It’s quick and easy to sign up for the free programs online. Food Smart www.midwaste.org.au/food-smart and Your Business is Food www.midwaste.org.au/your-business-is-food 

This project is a NSW Government Waste Less Recycle More initiative funded by the waste levy.

Thanks, Megan.

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