First appeared in Issue 11 of Inner Circle Magazine in print (January 2018). To request a free hard copy, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cooking One Million Meals Per Year
Have you ever wondered what happens to the excess fruits and vegetables, cereals, breads and meats that don’t sell at the supermarket each week?
With nearly 10 billion dollars worth of food going to waste in Australia each year, it’s worth taking a minute to think about what happens this stock.
Why, when 3.6 million people in Australia experience food insecurity each year, is food that’s surplus or only slightly damaged getting thrown out?
Doing something about this is charity organisation FareShare.
They’re Australia’s largest kitchen charity, based in Melbourne and with the help of 900 regular volunteers, they cook up to 5,000 free meals a day.
“FareShare rescues surplus food from supermarkets, wholesalers, farmers and other food businesses and transforms it into free nutritious meals for charities,” explains Communications Director Lucy Farmer.
“We make every effort to ensure our meals are as nutritious as possible. We pack in as many veggies and as much protein as we can knowing a FareShare meal may be the only meal of the day for someone doing it tough.”
FareShare was born back in 2000 after a pastry chef noticed food going to waste and decided to use it to make pies for those experiencing homelessness.
In their early years, Lucy explains, FareShare was nomadic, “cooking out of borrowed kitchens.”
Now, the organization has grown into Australia’s largest charity kitchen, cooking more than one million meals a year.
Last year they also began a kitchen garden program to supplement their supply of rescued vegetables.
“We now grow our own veggies on three sites in Melbourne, including alongside Victoria Park station close to our kitchen,” Lucy says.
Each day is different in the FareShare kitchen, and the head chefs in charge of the volunteers never know quite what they’re going to be cooking.
“Every day our chefs are faced with a mystery box of ingredients from our food rescue vans,” says Lucy.
“They are some of the most skilled, creative and passionate chefs in Melbourne.”
And they couldn’t do it without the help of the 900 plus volunteers who frequent the Abbotsford kitchen each week.
Nicki Van Veen is one of these volunteers. She’s been with FareShare for just over a year, and says it’s been “mind-blowing.”
“I love it I really look forward to it every week,” she says.
“I was so keen to volunteer with FareShare for ages as I kept seeing them in the neighbour and poverty alleviation is something I care fiercely about. Out of every organisation, I was really interested in FareShare.”
“I really wanted to be able to contribute back to my community and Fareshare 100% aligned with what I believe personally.”
Working both kitchen and garden shifts, no two days are the same, says Nicki.
“Every day is different in the kitchen and similarly in the garden. Dependant on the time of year, you might be weeding, watering, harvesting plants… a whole range of activities.”
“In the kitchen you do whatever’s needed – chopping, stirring, basically whatever it takes to support those incredible chefs who have a pretty big job in deciding what to make!”
There’s also a social aspect Nicki enjoys, and she loves sharing the FareShare story with those who pass by the garden.
“It’s always nice when people stop by the garden and you get to tell them about FareShare and what’s going on,” she says.
There’s something rewarding too, about cooking with the food that you’ve grown.
“That small garden has produced tons of vegetables,” explains Nicki, “and as you’re holding crates of carrots it’s amazing to think that it all came from this little patch.”
“I volunteer with people I work with in the garden and when we’re cooking with celery or something just we’ve just harvested it’s pretty cool!”
It’s been a rewarding year with FareShare, Nicki says, and she is still in awe of the work they do in the Melbourne community.
“I always find it amazing just how much pretty small organisations are able to possibly affect those around them,” she says.
“I feel pretty fortunate that I’m able to volunteer with Australia’s largest charity kitchen. They’re a pretty awesome organisation and I love being a part of it.”
“I think I’m the lucky one.”
Photography by Adrian Lander