Australia’s first free supermarket attracts global interest

SUBSCRIBE to our fortnightly e-newsletter to receive more stories like this. OzHarvest founder and CEO Ronnie Kahn in front of OzHarvest Market, where all the products on the shelves are donated or 'rescued' - and, in most cases, would otherwise go to landfill.

The products on offer at inner-suburban Sydney’s OzHarvest Market aren’t all that different to those you’d find in any Australian corner store or supermarket.

Shelves, fridges and displays are filled with everything from fruit and vegetables to fresh bread and pastries donated by The Bread & Butter Project, dried and packaged goods such as rice and pasta, tinned goods, healthy snacks, ready-made meals and various beverages, along with essential home products and toiletries.

Yes, stock varies from day to day, week to week – but whatever’s there is there for the taking – literally.

OzHarvest Market, a “pop-up marketplace” that opened mid-April 2017 on the ground-floor of the Toga Addison Hotel on busy Anzac Parade, Kensington, is Australia’s first-ever ‘rescued food supermarket’.

The Market, says national not-for-profit OzHarvest, was inspired by the world’s first surplus food supermarket, launched in Denmark in 2016.

The Australian version, like its Danish predecessor, it is based on a ‘take what you need, give if you can’ philosophy – so if you’re cash-strapped and hungry, you can load your bags for free. If you can give something, even better: every dollar donated helps OzHarvest provide two free meals to Australians struggling to make ends meet.

According to OzHarvest, “Our purpose is to Nourish Our Country by stopping good food from going to waste and making sure it gets to people who need it most.”

In its first three months of operation, the rescued-food market has attracted thousands of low-income Sydneysiders as well as more solvent shoppers keen to support OzHarvest’s food-saving initiative. It’s also received huge amounts of positive feedback via its social media channels.OzHarvest's new 'rescued-food' supermarket is saving edible produce from landfill, helping people in need - and attracting worldwide attention.

What is rescued food?

What’s on the shelves of OzHarvest Market on any given week depends on what has been provided by food donors and/or ‘rescued’ by OzHarvest in the preceding days.

Every day, OzHarvest trucks criss-cross Sydney, collecting food that supermarkets and food retailers can no longer sell, as it is past its display-by date, but that is still unspoiled and safe to consume.

The not-for-profit organisation also rescues products deemed ‘surplus’ for commercial reasons – which could mean anything from an incorrect order to a change in the product’s packaging.

All the goods come from businesses across the Sydney metro area, including cafés, bakeries, other supermarkets, airline companies and food distributors. Much of what is donated or rescued is fresh, healthy produce that’s still perfectly edible but would otherwise go to waste.

Why a rescued-food supermarket?

With increasing amounts of food being ‘rescued’ by OzHarvest, Ronni Kahn believes the new OzHarvest Market is a ground-breaking new way to connect surplus food destined for landfill with those “not being reached” through the organisation’s existing services.

“The OzHarvest Market is our latest innovation to tackle food waste and eliminate hunger,” Khan said shortly after the Market’s launch.

“If times are tough and you’re in need of food or other goods, you can take what you need,” she explained. “If you can give something, then please do; it could even be your time or skills.

“There are lots of opportunities for people to get involved and give back to the local community, from volunteer hours in the market [to] stacking shelves and cleaning.”

How does OzHarvest Market work?

It’s simple: just get yourself to the Addison in Kensington any weekday between 10am and 2pm with your own shopping bag, collecting a basket on your way into the Market. Browse the displays and fill your bag with fruit and veg, canned food, drinks and other essentials – taking only what you need, so other shoppers get the chance to do similarly.

OzHarvest volunteers are on hand to help shoppers find things, receive donated goods, stack shelves and pack goods at the checkout area – where you’ll find no cash registers, just a donation box for those whose budget allows it.

The Market also offers recipes and food-prep tips to help you avoid food wastage, and hot soup every weekday to those who need a meal.

There’s no onsite parking, but the area is well serviced by public transport and is just six kilometres from Sydney’s CBD.Volunteers pose on the steps of the OzHarvest Market, occupying donated retail space in Kensington's Addison Hotel site donated by Toga Group while it awaits DA approval for further site development.

Donating produce or goods

Growers, producers, distributors, retailers and householders can all donate surplus goods to OzHarvest Market, provided it complies with certain conditions.

  • The market can accept dry goods and all items that are tinned, boxed or in packets.
  • Nor can it accept any food or beverages past their ‘use by’ dates, as these may no longer be safe for human consumption. However, some meats frozen on or just prior to this date will remain food-safe.
  • Food past its “best before” date is fine as long as it is still in good condition and ‘food safe’. Generally, says OzHarvest, three months past this date is safe, but it advises phoning prior to drop-off to discuss.
  • Basically, donors’ obligation regarding Australian food safety laws is to ensure any food donated has been “prepared and handled within food safety guidelines”, OzHarvest says, recommending prospective donors check online for specific information re current state legislation on food donation.
  • Donated goods can be dropped off to the store during operating hours – preferably with prior notice. Unfortunately, complications around food safety mean OzHarvest is “not set up logistically” to collect from households.

What’s the future for OzHarvest Market?

Currently, Australia’s first rescued-food supermarket is being trialled in retail space donated to OzHarvest by the Toga Group on the refurbed Addison Hotel site while the accommodation group awaits DA approval of its site development application.

The site, conveniently located on busy Anzac Parade in Sydney’s inner east, doubles as the temporary HQ of The Addison Project, a shelter-housing initiative for vulnerable youth run by community-housing provider My Foundations Youth Housing, and backed by the Toga Group and real-estate investment management firm Qualitas

The market will remain open, OzHarvest says, for as long as the site is available.

And the organisation’s CEO and founder Ronni Kahn is hopeful that Australia’s first rescued-food market will soon be one of many.

“We would love to see more OzHarvest Markets pop up as those in the industry are inspired by Toga’s initiative,” she asserts.

What is OzHarvest?

OzHarvest, Australia’s leading food rescue operator, collects “quality excess food” from commercial outlets nationwide, then delivers it directly to 900-plus charities that support people in need.

Currently, the not-for-profit organisation operates in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Canberra, Newcastle and the Gold Coast, and in regional communities across the country.

Donations, volunteering and further information

Want to keep abreast of the Market’s progress? Like the OzHarvest Market Facebook page to get the latest news and stock updates.

For further information about the Market and OzHarvest, contact sydney.info@ozharvest.org.

Keen to donate food to OzHarvest Market? Click here!

Want to help OzHarvest Market stay open to provide essential foods and products to people in need? Donate here.

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