Wasting goodwill on flawed idea

June 14, 2018

The Conservative Party is always critical of people and institutions who try to stick their noses into people’s lives and lifestyles.

So it’s not surprising that an opinion piece by Judith Sloan in The Australian would be of interest:

When it comes to eliminating food waste, I’d back my Nan and Pa any day over proselytising ex-event manager Ronni Kahn and her self-promoting charity, OzHarvest. My grandparents knew a thing or two about making do with what they had. Wasting food just wasn’t on their radar. They grew their own vegetables, had a few chooks and harvested fruit from their trees. Nan bottled fruit and made jams and chutneys. They bought sugar, flour and rolled oats in bulk and stored them in metal vats.

But here’s the thing: they wouldn’t have dreamt of telling other people how to live their lives. There was no self-righteousness on their part. They had lived through the Depression and were used to economising. So even when their financial situation ­improved, their daily habits remained relatively unchanged.

But not so Ronni Kahn, who is all too eager to hand out patronising advice on what we can do personally to eliminate food waste. The lessons — repeat after Ronni — are “look, buy, store and cook”. That’s right, we have our very own Nanny Ronni instructing us on how to manage our pantries and fridges, and only to cook what we need. We're also able to sign up for her tips to be sent to us.

According to FoodBank’s Hunger Report, there are 3.6 million Australians experiencing food insecurity (whatever that means) every year and more than 650,000 people receive some form of food relief each month. So the idea is that the excess food we don’t need — but I thought we weren’t supposed to be wasting it in the first place — can somehow be redistributed to the people who need it by using lots of sorters and trucks and fuel and drivers to achieve this.

And I guess these people who need the otherwise wasted food will just have to be grateful for what they receive (gosh, I’ve heard that before) even if foie gras and kale coleslaw aren’t their thing.

But that’s OK because Ronni has a charity to do just this. It’s called a food rescue charity (not as appealing as cute puppies or kittens, but what the heck) and it collects excess food from commercial outlets and delivers it to more than a 1000 charities around the country.

Of course, it would be much more efficient if these charities could simply purchase the food they require or, better still, give vouchers to needy people to buy the foods they prefer.

In any case, Ronni has spread her wings to enrol the major supermarket chains to come on board the food waste campaign. Of course the managers know not to resist, because appearing to do the right thing — you know, embracing corporate social responsibility, a concept adored by the left and many parts of corporate Australia — could just make commercial sense. And in the meantime, the managers can feel good about themselves because they are doing their bit for the planet, or something like that.

Mind you, Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci may have gone a bit overboard when he declared that “the four main issues customers care about are food waste, reducing plastic, a sustainable supply chain and energy efficiency”.

Come on, mate, don’t be ridiculous. You must have plucked these CSR feel-good issues from some sort of Yes Minister survey — so full of leading questions that any results are rubbish (geddit). Customers care about price, freshness, choice and safety.

And just in case you are wondering whether Brad has really jumped the shark, take it from me, he has. According to our local supermarket visionary: “We are on a journey of a purpose-led business. The group purpose is to create better experiences to create a better Australia (and) you can’t create a better experience for our customers and our communities unless we create a better planet and a better environment.” (A lot of creating going on, you’ll agree.)

Brad, you are running a chain of supermarkets. If you want to be a preacher or go into politics, you need to change jobs. You might also care to tell us how all those pokie machines and alcohol outlets that Woolies owns fit into ­“creating a better planet and a better environment”.

I don’t really care what floats Ronni’s boat or Brad’s boat, but we really need to be left alone to figure out how we purchase and use food.

And if you are really worried about people going hungry, think about donating to a genuine charity that can provide vouchers to people — hey, Woolworths could even provide them — so they can make choices that suit them. That’s the right thing to do.

To read Judith Sloane's full article, click here.

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