You know that triumphant feeling you get when you find a use for that leftover egg white from that lemon tart you made? Imagine that, but multiplied 5000 times. That’s what FareShare - a charity that uses excess food to make meals for the homeless - does every single day.
FareShare began with a pastry chef named Guido Pozzebon. When he came to work early on weekend mornings, he would greet many homeless people, in need of food, on the way in.
“He came up with the idea of using the leftover pastry from work to make hearty, nutritious pies for those in need, and FareShare was born,” says CEO Marcus Godinho.
FareShare liaises with other charities, like soup vans and homeless shelters, to distribute 5000 meals every day. Next year, FareShare will open a Brisbane branch with the capacity to feed up to 5 million meals a year.
“What’s unique about FareShare is that we cook surplus food on a big scale. We turn what would otherwise be wasted food into something delicious and nutritious for those in need,” says Godinho.
The not-for-profit depends on a team of 900 volunteers, which is where Godinho began. “I was working for big corporates and volunteering for FareShare on the weekends, and I just loved it. It got to a point where I thought, ‘This is what I really want to do,’ and so I came on board in a full-time capacity.”
Next year, FareShare will open a Brisbane branch with the capacity to feed up to 5 million meals a year.
The organisation benefits greatly from donations of surplus food from Woolworths (and in particular, the brand's donations of meat, which prior to Woolies’ involvement, FareShare found difficult to source), and Godinho says that his four full-time chefs are always challenging themselves to find new and innovative ways to use excess food.
“Our chefs are amazing,” he says. “We get donated some of the craziest stuff, and they always manage to make it into something fantastic.” He remembers a sausage roll he sampled recently, which he says was one of the best he’s ever tasted. “It was filled with leftover turkey stuffing,” he said, “and honestly, it was so tasty. It’s clever thinking like that that sets our charity apart.”
FareShare is also approached by other charities needing help with meals. “We had a soup van ring us and say, ‘We’re feeding people Cup-A-Soup, but it’s just not good enough. Can you help?’ Our chefs got to work on some homemade soups right away.”
The charity is also tasked with putting to use bulk goods from supermarkets and other suppliers. “We got a call once from a supplier who had 960 kilos of cashew nuts. They asked if we could take them, and we were like, ‘Sure, bring it on!’ The chefs got to work making curries, granola, you name it.”
Another time, FareShare was given three 16-gallon drums of mango puree. “Other charities without cooking facilities wouldn’t be able to use that,” says Godinho. “We’re so lucky that we can make such great use of this food that would otherwise go to waste.” Some donations aren’t so useful, though - Godinho recalls being offered freshly slaughtered goats from a family who’d just visited a farm, which FareShare wasn’t able to use due to hygiene and quality assurance issues.
“Our chefs are amazing,” he says. “We get donated some of the craziest stuff, and they always manage to make it into something fantastic.
Another difference between FareShare and other food bank-style charities is their commercial kitchens. “This means we also have the capacity to freeze bulk foods,” says Godinho. “We often have Woolworths or other suppliers ring and say, ‘Look, we have sixteen legs of lamb here, can you take them?’ And the great thing is that we can freeze some and use some fresh.”
In his ten-plus years at FareShare, Godinho says he’s seen a huge shift in attitudes to food waste, particularly from the big supermarkets. “We’ve seen the introduction of laws that protect supermarkets who want to give away excess food, and a big increase in landfill fees in Victoria,” says Godinho. “Supermarkets and other suppliers are really keen to use their waste in a more productive way.”
But for all the good FareShare does, Godinho insists that the real winners are the people who volunteer for the organisation.
“We’ve had two volunteer weddings,” he says, “and many more friendships. Most of our volunteers have been with us for years, some have even been here from the very beginning, back in 2000.”
Godinho and a group of his university mates volunteer at least once a quarter, and there’s a 1000-person strong waiting list.
“Our volunteers get so much out of this,” he says, “and it’s easy to see why. You’re turning something that otherwise would be chucked into landfill into a delicious, healthy meal for someone who might not have eaten anything that day - or even many days before. That’s an amazing feeling - you can’t replicate it with much else.”
This Melbourne food charity will feature on this week's episode of Shane Delia's Recipe For Life, 8pm, Thursdays on SBS and then on SBS On Demand. You can find the recipes and more features from the show here.