How Wasted Airplane Food Is Helping Australia’s Hungry

Each year, HarvestOz collects 160 tons of unwanted fruit, granola bars, and other unwanted in-flight goods to give to local charities.

On long-haul flights, airplane food is a necessity, but few would call it a delicious one. Often, the cups of diced fruit and plastic-wrapped granola bars find their way into the trash, unopened.

An Australian organization, OzHarvest, has devoted the last two years to traveling around to airports throughout the continent, collecting that discarded food and delivering it to over 800 charities. Fiona Nearn, a communications representative for OzHarvest, says that they collect roughly 160 tons of food each year from their airline partners—which equates to around 480,000 meals.

“Pretty much anything you’re seeing on an airline is something we can redistribute, as long as it’s still in a fit state to eat,” Cameron Hickey, the Queensland manager for OzHarvest, told ABC News.

Wasted airplane food

FoodBank, the largest food relief organization of Australia has revealed that the number of people with the shortage of food has raised 8% since 2015. The current stats shows that Australia is a home of almost 23.13 million people while the country produces enough food to fulfill the needs of 60 million people

The current stats shows that Australia is a home of almost 23.13 million people while the country produces enough food to fulfill the needs of 60 million people, but still, 2 million people are facing the shortage of food, says Nearn. The reason is that wage growth hasn’t improved with increase living costs.

According to the Foodbank, the cost of one bread loaf rose from $2.60 to $6.63 in last 10 years.

Nearn told that gathering and distributing food is very important to reduce the hunger while decreasing the food waste.

OzHarvest was initiated back in 2004. They are partnered with a network of two thousand cafes, businesses, supermarkets, airlines and other organizations. Their major ambition is to reduce the food wastage while feeding the poor people.

At the same time, they are trying to spread awareness to reduce the wastage of food. They’re also among the most counterintuitive. (A USA Today article from this year opened with the question: “Is there any aspect of aviation that’s more ridiculed than airline food?”) But the very fact that airplane food is selected to travel well, Nearn says, means it can “make an enormous difference to disadvantaged and vulnerable people.”

In Brisbane, for example, trucks collect and deliver between 200 and 400 kilograms of uneaten food each day—much of which comes from canceled or changed flights. The majority of the food, which reaches local charities in a matter of hours from the time of collection, consists of dry goods like muesli bars, muffins, and pretzels. Those items are often disposed of untouched and still in their packaging and consequently transport easily.

Hickey told ABC that going forward, OzHarvest hopes to collect more hot meals from airline kitchens. Those meals are often cooked in excess, but Hickey said they pose a greater challenge to transport. With the airline partnerships still in a relatively fledgling state, though, Hickey said OzHarvest will continue to work to streamline the collection process at their partner airports; OzHarvest also plans to expand to working with food vendors in airport terminals.

With inequality and food insecurity impacting millions of people across Australia, it’s obvious that no one solution will close those gaps. But OzHarvest’s airline collaborations show that vital pieces of that solution will come from unexpected outlets—and may take the form of items tossed in-flight without a second thought to their value.

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