A couple of months ago we were invited to go out to Rowville Community Kitchen, learn about their food rescue programs and have some lunch (more about that later), and it certainly opened our eyes to what was going on around us. It seems that community food programmes have been sprouting like mushrooms, which on the one hand is fantastic, but on the other, highlights the amount of food being mindlessly wasted everyday – up to 20% of what we buy gets wasted and it needn’t.
As Cliff likes to say (immortalised by Fair Marketeers) ‘it seems to be that if you’re buying a car and decide to get, say, a Volvo, all you see is Volvos. They’re everywhere’, and so it is with community food programmes, we can’t seem to miss them. There are events, groups, gardens, kitchens, you name it they’re out there and it’s a great thing too; they do a pile of good in the community. Since our enlightening trip to Rowville, we’ve come across Sprout Community Garden, the Grow It, Cook It program at Span Community House, Open Food Network, Open Table, Food Rescue over in Western Australia, and of course the more well-known organisations like Second Bite and Fareshare.
Just this week, on a beautiful sunny spring afternoon, I went to take a peek at the Atherton Gardens community garden run by local group Cultivating Community, and stumbled on both the Fitzroy Community Food Centre, and a community gardening initiative by a group calling themselves Condell Growers and Sharers.
The food produced at Rowville Community Kitchen is all sourced from ingredients that have been rescued from going to waste. At their weekly community lunch, we were served delicious bangers and mash, and a wonderful bread and butter pudding, by courteous and skilled staff, most of whom are being supported back into the workforce through this program. Double good. Boom!
Founder, Christine Smith says “by treating food and our community with respect this is where the magic happens”. Having recently moved into new digs at the Rowville Community Centre with a sparkling new kitchen, they are also embarking on an ambitious new initiative called Recipe4Change; a project aiming to help community organisations get hold of more so-called ‘left-over’ food.
Treating food and our community with respect is where the magic happens
Clearly, there are many ways to skin a carrot but what ties all of these groups together is a notion of sustainable living, a degree of distress or consternation at the amount of food we waste, and a true sense of community spirit. Most important of all, they share a can do attitude that presents itself as a willingness to just get on and solve the problems.
All this value presents a plethora of great openings for the business sector too. Local or national, small or large, businesses can benefit in all sorts of ways. Establishing or localising a volunteering programme gives staff the opportunity to feel the pulse of the local community while doing something very tangible with their time – it might just increase productivity too.
Workplace giving schemes can be tailored to fit these smaller organisations and innovative businesses can even explore more collaborative arrangements that strategically align with where they’re at on their social reponsibility journey and even tie into the products or services they create. Add to this, all of the great stories that will emerge from their experiences at the coal face. At the very least, staff and their families could be encouraged to donate food that would otherwise find itself in the bin. If none of this sounds right for you, you could always just take a team out to Rowville and enjoy a spot of lunch.. the inspiration is infectious.