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  • Writer's pictureNZ Food Waste Champions

New Zealand's First Food Waste Summit

On Monday 22nd March, New Zealand hosted its first Food Waste Summit – Te Hui Taumata Moumou Kai o Aotearoa. Powered by WasteMINZ, with support from NZ Food Waste Champions 12.3, the Summit pulled together people who work across New Zealand’s food supply chain and who want to reduce food waste.

Angie Warren-Clark MP, responsible for the recent Parliamentary investigation into food, opened the summit. She revealed her passion for food rescue organisations and her role in securing the Government’s recent investment of $32 million post-Covid-19 to build food secure communities. NZ Food Waste Champions 12.3 Founding Coordinator, Tessa Vincent, took the stage next. She said Covid-19 “highlighted the fragility of our food supply chain, and the value of food”. She also pointed to climate change as a major driver for NZ to reduce food waste because food waste is responsible for 8% of global GHG emissions.

We then heard from Dana Gunders who is the CEO of ReFED – a national food waste reduction non-profit in the United States. Dana’s presentation emphasized the importance of good data. Interestingly, Dana pointed out that food wasted at homes is 6x the carbon footprint as food wasted on farms – meaning prevention of food waste needs to be prioritised. Her final message was, “bottom line, there’s no time to waste here”.

The rest of the day was split into four sections: Paddock, Packhouse, Presentation and Plate.

Around 21 – 26% of food is lost to the first ‘Paddock’ stage of the food supply chain. Reasons include price pain-points, labour demands and a general lack of investment in innovation. Dr Nick Roskruge (National Māori Vegetable Growers Collective) shared a mātauranga Māori perspective of reducing food waste on the paddock – highlighting the value of kai and Papatūānuku. Lionel Hotene from Papatūānuku Kōkiri spoke of his collaboration with Legasea on Kai Ika – which feeds people surplus produce from the fishing industry, particularly fish-heads which are a delicacy in Māori culture. The ‘Paddock’ panel had Samantha Walmsley-Bartlett (FairGrow), Vicki Burggraaf (AgResearch) and Wayne Langford (Meat the Need). They shared the stories of new initiatives, FairGrow and Meat the Need, which sprung out of Covid-19 to increase donations of surplus produce.

We then travelled to the 'Packhouse'. Anna Yallop provided examples of companies that Bioresource Processing Alliance is assisting to utilise by-products, creating new products ranging from dietary supplements to biogas to wood substitutes. Nigel Davenport spoke of Sustainable is Attainable – a collaborative approach to sustainable waste and by-product management in the South Canterbury region, working with 20+ food processing and manufacturing companies. Dr Peter Longdill discussed the work Sanford is doing to ensure all parts of a fish – livers, fish skins, bladders– are being turned into viable products e.g. fish oil. The ‘Packhouse’ panel included Katy Bluett (Future Food Aotoeara), Paul Kilmartin (University of Auckland) and Dr Brent Clothier (Plant & Food Research) who emphasised the need for better data and the beautiful uptake of ugly foods.

The ‘Presentation’ phase of the day involved representatives from the hospitality and retail sectors. Gavin Findlay introduced the New Zealand Food Network (NZFN). With support from the Ministry of Social Development, NZFN has been distributing significant amounts of food across the country to the people who need it most. We heard from Francesca Goodman-Smith (Foodstuffs NZ) about the future of upcycling food in NZ - where new food products are being made with by-products. Citizen featured in her talk and their beer and bread was tasted by attendees at the post-summit networking event. The 'Presentation' panel included Kate Porter (Countdown), Nick Loosley (Everybody Eats), Dawn Hutchesson (Aotearoa Food Rescue Alliance) and Hannah Miller Child (A Lady Butcher). They discussed the incentives for restaurants and supermarkets to reduce food waste – “the whole point is for us not to have surplus”, said Kate.

Finally, during the 'Plate' session we heard that over 150 tonnes of food are thrown away by NZ households each year – equivalent to three shopping trolleys per family. It became clear that WasteMINZ’ Love Food Hate Waste campaign has been a pivotal educational focal point and needs further investment. Sally Fraser, from Waipā District Council discussed their own efforts to raise consumer awareness (including an epic video of what we’re actually throwing out!). Te Kawa Robb (Para Kore Marae Inc) spoke on the role of Te Ao Māori concepts in reducing food waste and the importance of local composting networks. Finally, the ‘Plate’ panel included Associate Professor Miranda Mirosa (University of Otago), Dr Joya Kemper (University of Auckland) and Gloria Gao (Chinese New Settlers Services Trust) who gave us insights on consumer food waste – and the importance of educating our youth and how to reach diverse ethnic communities using their cultural festivals and wisdoms.

Each session involved a workshop where attendees reviewed a draft list of solutions for industry, government and community in tackling food waste at that part of the supply chain. Final solutions will be released this month as part of the NZ Food Waste Champions’ Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, supported by the University of Otago, AGMARDT and Countdown.

Tackling food waste requires a collaborative approach. We need everyone on board: government, industry, academics, community groups and consumers. The Food Waste Summit was a momentous occasion that brought together (for the first time) those who hold the solutions and hope for food waste reduction in our beautiful country, Aotearoa.

Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi.

With your food basket and my food basket, there will be abundance for all.

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