Food charity launches calculator measuring environmental benefits of donating food

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 28th November 2008

FareShare, a not-for-profit organisation that rescues surplus food to prepare healthy meals for Melbourne’s hungry and homeless, yesterday launched a new ‘calculator’ that can measure the environmental benefits of donating surplus food.

Produced in conjunction with Sustainability Victoria and Hyder Consulting, the MS Excel ‘Food Recovery Environmental Benefits Calculator’ can estimate the savings in water, landfill, energy and greenhouse gas emissions of 40 food ingredients.

“To produce FareShare’s meals, we collect quality surplus food that would otherwise be wasted – from growers, manufacturers, wholesale markets, caterers, major retailers and hospitality schools – and turn it into nutritious meals for the hungry and homeless. We also re-distribute a large quantity of uncooked food directly to charities,” FareShare CEO, Marcus Godinho, said. “For the first time, businesses who provide surplus food to FareShare can quantify the environmental benefits of their donations.”

FareShare Kitchen

FareShare has also used the calculator to estimate its own environmental contribution. The results are detailed in a new report titled: ‘Sustainability gains through the recovery of unsold or off-specification food’.

“The waste reduction associated with our large-scale food recovery program has significant benefits for the environment,” Mr Godinho advised. “We estimate that for every kilogram of food that is recovered, FareShare saves 56 litres of water. FareShare’s food recovery activities in 2008-09 are also expected to save 620 tonnes of greenhouse gases – the equivalent to switching off 953 refrigerators a year.”

FareShare, which was created seven years ago, is appealing to the food industry for regular donations of surplus food as demand rises.

“As a result of a significant increase in demand for emergency food relief, we recently moved into a new kitchen. Our new ovens have the capacity to produce 1,500 pies, quiches and pastries an hour, which is ten times the capacity of our previous kitchen,” Mr Godinho commented. “We need regular food donations to help keep up with the demand from soup vans, homeless shelters, school breakfast programs and support groups for single mothers.”

The company is looking for all types of food, with a preference for pastry, cheese, meat and vegetable produce as they look toward their aim of giving away one million meals a year to Melbourne’s hungry and homeless.

Peter Allan, Principal Consultant at Hyder Consulting – who instigated the project and designed the calculator, reported that major benefits are derived from food recovery. “Our analysis has identified the clear environmental benefits of food recovery and its diversion from landfill,” he noted. “These environmental benefits will continue to grow as other organisations follow the lead of companies, such as Heinz, in supporting FareShare.”

To download the full report, or for more information on how to donate food to FareShare or help in other ways, visit: