Good food is about to get a second life through a new partnership between Sapphire Community Pantry and Bega Valley Shire Council.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority has allocated $177,070 to Council’s Waste and Recycling team for a project that will redirect food from the Shire’s landfill sites to The Pantry in Bega and on to the tables of local families.
The Bega Valley Waste App will play a key role in the project acting as a quick and simple communication link and allow The Pantry to build connections with potential food donors including large clubs, supermarkets, and food producers.
Council staff will also take on an education and networking role to build more human connections.
“Council is committed to achieving NSW EPA targets of avoiding and reducing waste and diverting more waste from landfill, and this project is a fantastic initiative that works towards that goal,” Counci’s Waste Management Coordinator Joley Vidau says.
It’s hoped the project will increase the amount of food donations to The Pantry while cutting the amount going to landfill.
The Pantry currently sources most of its food from the national charity Foodbank, as well as Woolworths, OzHarvest, Coles Second Bite, and donations from local businesses, community gardens and local people with an excess of fruit and vegetables.
Pantry Coordinator, Christine Welsh, is hopeful the collaboration will result in more fresh food being available to people in need.
“This will have a huge impact on the people we see each week, we get a lot of processed food – tins and packets, but not enough fresh fruit and vegetables or meat.
“The sad thing is that when you are living on a limited income you get the most bang for your buck with junk food, we try and change that and give people choice.”
Ms Welsh says people shop at The Pantry each week for a range of reasons, making the most of the greatly reduced prices or free food and products on offer.
“On a Tuesday we average about 70 to 80 people and then on a Thursday when we are open a bit longer we average 80 to 90,” she says.
“We’ve got four main customers at The Pantry.
“We see the people who are starving and really down on their luck, the second group are people in casual or seasonal work or people who have just had a combination of an electricity bill, car rego, and rent and they are struggling to pay for everything – people who are temporarily in poverty.
“The third group we have are the environmental warriors who want to support The Pantry because we save good food from going to landfill, and the fourth type are people who want to support The Pantry by buying our products.
“But the message we get from a lot of people is – without you we wouldn’t survive.”
Most of the food on sale at The Pantry is either close to or just past its ‘best before date’ or can’t be sold in supermarkets for a range of reasons – overstocking, damaged packaging, or expired promotions.
“Believe it or not we even have things like truffle oil,” Ms Welsh chuckles.
“We are hoping this collaboration with Council will raise awareness that we can take this food and we can distribute it, there is enough food around to feed everybody.”
The Sapphire Community Pantry is run entirely by volunteers and everyone in the community is invited to come and shop. It is open Tuesday between 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm and Thursdays 11:00 am to 2:00 pm and 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm, at 2 Pedan Street, Bega, just down from Mitre 10.