Sunday, August 14, 2022

Govt boosts funds to reduce food waste

The Government has boosted the coffers to further help minimise the waste of surplus edible food.

This comes as a recent survey reveals Kiwis household food waste habits have taken a turn for the worse.

The Aotearoa food rescue co-ordinator, the New Zealand Food Network (NZFN), plans to use the $440,000 in funding to install additional chillers and freezers in its storage facilities to increase the capacity to handle surplus and donated food.

The extra space will enable the network to divert an additional 1100 tonnes of edible food from landfill to communities in need.

The expansion is supported by the Waste Minimisation Fund administered by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) with additional support from pre-approved Ministry of Social Development funding. 

NZFN chief executive Gavin Findlay says vast amounts of edible chilled and frozen food is sent to landfill every year by food organisations and producers across the country. 

“There are lots of reasons for this, but the primary reason is that there’s no single entity that can handle these large quantities.

“Many businesses are willing to donate surplus food to communities in need but it’s simply too complex and time consuming to find homes for these products, so it’s sent to landfill.”

The NZFN was set up to provide the food production and manufacturing industry with a solution for surplus edible food. 

“It will improve food security by diverting this surplus food into our vulnerable communities.”

Gavin Findlay
NZ Food Network

Over the past two years it has provided 32 million meals to food hubs around the country. 

“This support from MfE will provide real progress to reducing NZ’s commercial food waste and our overall carbon footprint. 

“At the same time, it will improve food security by diverting this surplus food into our vulnerable communities.” 

The NZFN supports 61 food hubs across food rescue organisations, iwi, foodbanks and charities. 

With the expansion, the NZFN aims to support a further 10-15 food hubs around the country. 

“Increasing our storage capacity will allow us to target a broader range of food items, especially within the protein sector, which is highly valued by our food hubs,” Findlay said.

Since its launch in July 2020 the NZFN has prevented more than 17 million kilograms CO2-equivalent being produced from food being sent to landfill.

Meantime, NZ’s food waste as a percentage of household spend significantly increasing over the past year.

The 2022 Rabobank-KiwiHarvest food waste research survey found the average NZ household reported wasting 13.4% of the food they bought each week, significantly up on the 8.6% recorded in the 2021 survey. 

This jump comes despite surging food prices that have further increased Kiwis’ weekly food spend and these two factors in combination have pushed the estimated value of food waste per Kiwi household to $1520 per year.

At a national level, this equates to a total $3.1 billion of estimated wasted food, enough to feed the entire population of Hamilton for a year. 

Rabobank NZ chief executive Todd Charteris says the results of the latest survey of 1500 Kiwis came as a big surprise given estimated food waste had decreased across recent surveys.

“We’ve been tracking Kiwis’ food waste over the past five years and during this period we’ve seen a downwards trend in the proportion of food New Zealanders estimate they waste.

“We were genuinely surprised to see food waste jump so significantly in the latest survey.

“The survey found wasted money was Kiwis biggest deterrent to wasting food and with the cost of living continuing to rise, we’d anticipated this might act as a catalyst for food waste to decrease even further in 2022.

“On the contrary, we’ve seen the exact opposite and over the past 12 months it’s evident that Kiwis’ food waste habits have taken a turn for the worse.” 

With the survey finding little change from last year in attitudes towards food waste, their reported food behaviours, or the key reasons for throwing food out, it is difficult to identify a clear cause for the jump in estimated food waste. 

“But what is clear is that, for many Kiwis, there remains a major disconnect between their food waste attitudes and the actions they’re taking in their own homes to reduce waste.

The survey findings highlight there are many who are making a concerted effort to limit food waste, but also a large number who are either unaware of the harmful impacts of food waste, or just unwilling to modify their behaviours to tackle the problem. 

“And finding ways to move those in this group towards meaningful action will be crucial if we’re to see the amount of food wasted across NZ reduce in the years ahead.”

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