SecondBite report highlights Australia’s food insecurity

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 30th March 2011

SecondBite fresh food collectionFood rescue group SecondBite today released a report on the impact of its rescued fresh food on the many people who rely on the community food programs it supplies, revealing that two thirds rely on the programs for at least half their food intake, and that one third get all of their fruit and vegetables from meals served by SecondBite’s partners.

The report – Food Rescue: A Fresh Approach – was launched today at Melbourne’s Prahran Mission by Victorian Premier and SecondBite supporter Ted Baillieu.

SecondBite collected and redistributed 880 tonnes of fresh food, mostly fruit and vegetables in 2010 to partner groups such as Prahran Mission. Just last Friday, the charity received a donation of 1.5 tonnes of fresh Atlantic salmon left over from catering at the Grand Prix.

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

Deakin Univeristy Associate Professor and SecondBite Director Cate Burns 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,” she said.

Burns said that the report offered insight into the vitally important role that fresh, nutritious food plays in offering social connectedness, better health and even advancement opportunities for those accessing community food programs.

“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.”

Premier Baillieu applauded SecondBite’s efforts, in particular its research, and its tireless efforts to obtain new sources of fresh food which would otherwise go to landfill

“Secondbite is doing a fantastic job for all Victorians, not only what they do, but also advancing in the development of research as well. It’s one thing for an organisation to pick up and do the obvious, but to actually embark on research is so important,” he said.

“We all share that basic need – air, food, water and shelter – and without those we’re in strife. For those who are vulnerable, food is a more expensive component. The test in recent years is that conditions have made food a choice for some people, and that in itself creates a risk into the future.”

“A good diet improves quality of life, and those who are under pressure know it, but have to make do with what they can find. If we can reduce the risk of chronic disease while maximising fresh food and good food to those who need it, that will help.  helps obesity helps mental health issues helps general wellbeing all at the same time fodo is also a vehicle which people connect we connect spatially, sharing food, and the role food plays in society cannot be underestimated.

The research, conducted by SecondBite’s Rebecca Lindberg, 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, SecondBite said that the 7.5 million tonnes of food thrown out annually in Australia would feed 13.6 million 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,” she said.

“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% of their fresh food had been rescued and redistributed to them by SecondBite.

However, hundreds of other welfare agencies are not so fortunate, and SecondBite said it currently has 31 agencies on a wait list in Victoria alone, with that number increasing weekly.

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

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 findings.

“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 Barfield.