Australian report first to expose fresh food disparity

12 April 2011

Deakin University's Associate Professor Cate Burns says that the community as a whole faces a significant economic cost from food insecurity in terms of the burden of diet related disease and cost to the social fabric.

SecondBite, the organisation committed to making a positive difference to people by identifying sources of nutritious surplus fresh food and produce that might otherwise go to waste, has released a ground-breaking report titled “Food Rescue - A Fresh Approach” that exposes the huge fresh food disparity in our community and why it is simply not acceptable to provide the most vulnerable members of our community food that is not fresh and nutritious.

The report measured, for the first time in Australia, the impact of fresh food in meals served to people who rely on Community Food Programs and revealed that the majority of participants rely heavily on these services, with devastating physical and mental health consequences if they do not receive fresh, nutritious meals.

For one third of the research participants their only intake of fruit and vegetables for the entire day came from meals served at Community Food Programs and two thirds rely on Community Food Programs for at least half of their entire daily food intake.

The research found that more dairy and fruit supplies are urgently required in the sector, as charities struggle to supply adequate amounts.
In stark contrast to the need, the 7.5million tonnes of food we throw out in Australia each year would feed 13.6million people a hearty meal three times a day for an entire year.

Katy Barfield, Executive Director of SecondBite said there is a solution and fresh rescued food provided by organisations like SecondBite has a potentially enormous impact on the health, social and economic costs of food insecurity.

“The SecondBite model of fresh food re-distribution is economical, has a positive environmental impact, could potentially reduce the millions of tax payer’s dollars being spent on health care and most importantly can improve the quality of life and mental wellbeing of Australia's most vulnerable men, women and children.

“Given the evidence revealed in this report - why isn't it happening? Why do we continue to throw millions of tonnes of good quality food into landfill instead of re-distributing it to people in need?
All the food programs who participated were regular recipients of SecondBite’s service and they recorded that on average 71 per cent of their fresh food had been rescued and redistributed to them by SecondBite but hundreds of other welfare agencies are not so fortunate and SecondBite currently has 31 agencies on a wait list in Victoria alone and that number increases weekly.

“We are calling on Government, food businesses, growers, corporates, financial supporters and the public to help put common sense back on the menu!” she said.

One of the most concerning outcomes of the report is that the majority of participants were
overweight but are also malnourished.

Associate Professor Cate Burns, from Deakin University and also a SecondBite Director, said that the
community as a whole faces a significant economic cost from food insecurity in terms of the burden
of diet related disease and cost to the social fabric of our society.

“This report highlights the importance of the rescue and redistribution of healthy food as one
strategy for addressing the very real problem of food insecurity in our community. This healthy food
enables agencies to provide a healthy meal for clients that meets their nutritional needs. The food
also gives clients a sense of connection and value in sharing a nutritious meal which they can enjoy
with others,” said Associate Professor Burns.

SecondBite has recently formed a Food Security Advisory Committee and this research report is the
first in a series on food insecurity as SecondBite launches ongoing initiatives in response to the

SecondBite is a not-for-profit food rescue organisation that in 2010 collected and redistributed 880
tonnes of fresh, nutritious food that would have otherwise go to land-fill. Almost 75 per cent of this
was fresh fruit and vegetables. The rescued food is redistributed to Community Food Programs,
providing more than six million free serves of fruit and vegetables to the community.

“The redistribution of healthy fresh food and continued research into long term preventative
solutions is essential for the physical, mental and social well being of vulnerable people and
SecondBite is dedicated to achieving a sustainable and healthy food supply that all community
members can access.

“SecondBite requires urgent food donations and in particular is seeking increased supplies of fresh
dairy and fruit donations to help meet the deficits identified in the report,” said Ms Barfield.

Associate Professor Cate Burns Associate Professor Cate Burns

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