Live Your Dream – OzHarvest

For Vivienne Healy, a measured and orderly person, the amount of food produced in Australia compared to the amount consumed seemed totally illogical.

“Australia produces enough food to feed 60million people – in a population of less than half that”, the Perth mining machinery executive said.

“About one third of all food we produce is wasted.

“And yet each day, also, 600,000 people live beneath the bread line and need help to obtain basic sustenance.”

The imbalance and the inequity grated on Vivienne, and she decided to do something about it.

Her employer, global heavy machinery operator Komatsu, has an employee program called Live Your Dream which encourages staff members to propose worthy community projects for financial and in-kind support.

Vivienne put forward a “food rescue organisation” called OzHarvest, formed in 2004 to rescue quality surplus food from going to landfill, and delivering it to charities that support vulnerable communities.

Ronni Kahn, OzHarvest’s Founder and CEO, started with just one truck, collecting surplus food stocks which otherwise would have gone to waste, and delivering them to people in need.

It wasn’t easy: food security laws got in her way.

Ronni gathered powerful allies and forced through changes to legislation in four states to enable OzHarvest to give away the surplus stock in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Eighteen years on OzHarvest supports 1670 charities, works with more than 3,000 food donor businesses and has delivered more than 200 million meals to people in need.

The Federal Government has recognized Ronni by making her an officer of the Order of Australia- the nation’s second highest honor.

“My contribution is a lot less”, Vivienne who arrived in Australia as a backpacker from Ireland 16 years ago, said. “But it means a lot to me that I’m able to help.”

In early May, Vivienne presented a cheque for $10,000 to the East Perth branch of OzHarvest and spent volunteer time with the organization collecting and delivering food.

Most importantly she’s introduced OzHarvest to her 800 work colleagues and food collection bins have been set up at Komatsu’s Western Australian facilities.

“The whole experience has been really humbling”, Vivienne said.

“I’ve spent time now meeting people in nursing homes and homes for the disadvantaged and the look of gratitude on their faces is overwhelming.

“Yet I look at my own home with the cupboard stacked with food that I bought on a whim, and which honestly may never be eaten.”

OzHarvest opened its Perth branch seven years ago and supports 128 local charities through the willing help of 443 food donor businesses.

It estimates it has 21million meals to people in Perth, many through schools.

“We went to schools as part of my volunteer program, delivering care packages to children to take home to their parents”, Vivienne said.

The raw statistics drive her to tears of frustration: “Its estimated one in five children go to school without having a proper breakfast”, she said.

Vivienne fulfilled her Live Your Dream project when she presented her company’s cheque to OzHarvest, the money to be used largely to purchase packaging for the care parcels.

But Vivienne’s personal quest has only just begun.

“Its early days yet, but I know the whole culture of food rescue is going to grow inside Komatsu, and everyone who has been influenced is going to tell their friends as well”, she said