OzHarvest x Noosa Eat & Drink Festival

OzHarvest x Noosa Eat & Drink Festival

We sat down with Michele Lipner from OzHarvest to talk all things OzHarvest, reducing food waste and how they are involved in Noosa Eat & Drink Festival this year.

Can you tell us about OzHarvest's mission and how it aligns with the values of the Noosa Eat & Drink Festival?

OzHarvest’s mission is to Nourish Our Country by diverting food that might otherwise go to waste and delivering it to charities and other groups that help feed people in need. We are also about advocacy and outreach to help change attitudes and behaviours around food waste – with the aim of reducing the amount of food going to landfill, thereby diminishing the negative impact of food waste on the environment.

Noosa Eat & Drink is all about the celebration of food. In that vision is a strong ethos around showcasing local talent, making the most of our food – and leaving nothing to waste - and being environmentally aware and responsible. Our goals and our ethos are closely aligned with those of the Festival as we are strong advocates for finding innovative solutions to reducing food waste and ensuring that what we do helps save the planet through our strong advocacy around zero-waste. As important is our mantra which we have promoted from day one – we are all about locals supporting locals – and how better way to do that then supporting our local producers and talent.

What inspired OzHarvest to get involved in the Noosa Eat & Drink Festival this year?

We are thrilled that the Noosa Eat & Drink Festival is back on board showcasing the incredible talent in the region. We have admired the Festival’s ongoing and strong ethic around zero waste (food and otherwise). The Festival has been a strong advocate for OzHarvest in the past – and we are proud of our partnership with them. The Festival is a great way to reach out to the community and talk about OzHarvest, how to make the most of our food, and share ways of reducing waste at home. 

You're collaborating on a workshop Cameron Matthews about zero waste cooking, tell us more!

Chef Cameron Matthews has been a strong advocate of OzHarvest for years – and has served as an OzHarvest Chef Ambassador in Australia and abroad. The workshop focuses on tips and tricks for reducing food waste at home and how to 'Use It Up' – creating beautiful and tasty dishes from produce that might otherwise have gone to landfill. The workshop will help serve as a reminder that quality is not what something looks like on the outside, but how it tastes on the inside. As we like to say, just because it isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect.

We're excited to have you on board with a stall in the Producers Pavilion this year, what can we expect? 

The stall is a great place to meet our volunteers and learn about the work we do in the community – and how we have supported feeding those in need over the last 10 years. We will also talk about helpful hints and tricks to reduce food waste at home and demonstrate how you can make tasty dishes/condiments with quality food that you might otherwise have gone to waste. In addition, we will be selling our local cookbook, SunnyCoast Eats which includes 53 contributed recipes that are easy to make, budget friendly and champion local ingredients. With tips on kitchen basics, food swaps and reducing food waste at home, it is a great go-to-guide whether you are a kitchen novice or pro. Proceeds from book sales allow us to gift copies to our charities and their clients. SunnyCoast Eats can also be purchased online. 

OzHarvest will be responsible for picking up food waste from chef demonstrations and restaurants. Can you tell us more about this initiative and how it helps reduce food waste?

We will be collecting surplus food that is still fit for human consumption and donating that food onward to our almost 50 charities, schools, community centres and programs that are providing food to people in need in our community. This initiative will have a twofold effect: first, we will be able to feed community members in need with the donated surplus and second, we are diverting food from landfill. Twenty percent of landfill is food waste – and given food waste creates methane gas – which is a greenhouse gas – keeping food out of landfill helps reduce the amount of methane gas in our environment.

What happens to the food waste collected by OzHarvest at the festival? 

Food that is collected from the Festival will be donated onwards to our multiple recipient agencies. These agencies will, in turn, either create meals from the surplus or provide food hampers to those in our community who are food insecure and struggling to make ends meet. All food that is collected will be provided at no cost to our recipient agencies and their clients.

How will the $1 donation from every restaurant event ticket benefit OzHarvest's initiatives?

Most of our Chapter funding to keep operations running come from local fundraising and grants. Funds raised from the Festival come at a critical time. Cost of living pressures continue to impact on more and more Aussie households. Demand for our services continue to grow and it just becomes increasingly more difficult to meet that demand. Funds raised will support our operations in multiple ways – from helping us put fuel in our vehicles used by volunteers to carry out their food rescue runs and purchasing dry goods to help supplement ongoing donations to helping us with our school and community outreach activities that focus on raising awareness about food waste and how each of us can be part of the solution to reducing food waste at home and in our community.

Are there any other ways that festival attendees can support OzHarvest's work beyond the festival?

Hopefully, when they go home, they will think about what they can do to reduce waste at home – from buying what they need and eating what they buy to buying local – and unpackaged foods. Our recyclable and reusable 'Use It Up Tape' – which we will be giving away at the Festival – is a daily reminder to ‘cook me’, ‘store me, ’pick me’ or ‘use me’ reminder before food finds its way to the bin. And of course, we hope they will buy our Cookbook – which has great ideas for how to use our local produce!

Can you share any success stories or examples of the impact OzHarvest has had in reducing food waste and supporting communities?

Since our first food rescue run in August 2014, we have rescued and redistributed over one million kg of surplus food to almost 50 local charities, schools, churches, community centres, homeless shelters and other agencies. That is the equivalent of providing approximately 2.7 million meals to local people in need. What is remarkable is that this has been achieved primarily through a team that up to October 2023, was fully volunteer based. This says so much about our community – we are about locals helping locals – and we have!

Lastly, how can individuals get involved with OzHarvest or support its mission beyond the Noosa Eat & Drink Festival?

Donate their time to OzHarvest Sunshine Coast & Gympie or their local chapter elsewhere or donate funds to help us do what we do best – feed people in need, reduce the amount of food going to landfill and become advocates for reducing food waste in our homes and our community.