Katrina, as spokesperson and coordinator for REAP by OzHarvest’s Port Macquarie chapter, you perform a very special role within our community. Tell us more about REAP by OzHarvest …
REAP by OzHarvest is the regional chapter of national organisation OzHarvest and was established in the Port Macquarie-Hastings region to facilitate the collection and redistribution of excess food in the Hastings Community. It currently supplies local charities, schools and community organisations with rescued food. By redistributing this food, it also reduces the amount of good food going to landfill.
So far we have rescued over 23,000 kg of food locally. This equates to 77,000 meals and saves local charities $387,000.
What does your role with REAP by OzHarvest involve?
I coordinate and liaise between the food donors and the charities that we deliver to. I’m the official spokesperson for the organisation, and I also coordinate our volunteers, apply for grants and make sure our day-to-day operations run smoothly.
What is the most rewarding part about this role?
I love seeing good food going to those who need it most, instead of going into landfill. There is nothing like going to the local breakfast programme for school students that we donate food to and seeing the little kids eating a healthy breakfast before heading into class.
Tell us a little about your background and what brought you to Port Macquarie …
My husband and I and our three children moved to Port Macquarie after 14 years of living in Sydney. We were looking for a sea change and Port Macquarie was a perfect fit. I’m a qualified counsellor and I saw a need in Port Macquarie for my services and decided to do something about it.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced within your role at REAP by OzHarvest?
Gaining funding! We are a not-for-profit organisation, and we operate on a very small budget. But we still need funds to run the van, buy the transportation containers, perform routine maintenance in order to adhere to food safety regulations and much more.
I imagine it has taken a lot of hard work and persistence to get local organisations on board to donate their excess food. Can you tell us about this process and how you have managed to garner such amazing support from these businesses?
My approach was and is to just keep pestering them! After a while, I think some businesses saw me coming and gave me food just to shut me up! Seriously, once I explained to them how easy it was to donate and how REAP by OzHarvest could take care of all the little details and legislative, they quickly jumped on board.
REAP by OzHarvest recently hosted an event called Think. Eat. Save where you fed up to 350 members of the community a free hot lunch, which was prepared using rescued food. Tell us a little bit about this event and what it was aiming to do …
The Think. Eat. Save event is part of a global campaign in partnership with OzHarvest, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN’s Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Save Food Initiative “Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction”.
By preparing 350 hot meals from rescued food that would have otherwise ended up in landfill, the event aimed to raise awareness of food wastage and encourage the community to pledge their commitment to reducing their own personal food wastage.
What words of wisdom can you share with others who may have their own aspirations to make a difference in their community and launch a non-profit?
Two things. Firstly, don’t give up. Share your passion and your heart, and others will join in. Secondly; gather people with different skill sets and work together to make it happen. I have two accountants and a bank manager on my Board who handle the business side of things. Also I have a fantastic marketing manager who does an incredible job helping us spread the word. All of these people are volunteers who share the vision and passion of REAP.
How can members of the community get involved and support REAP by OzHarvest on a local level?
One of our biggest challenges is funding our operations. The more organisations we get on board to donate, the more redistribution we can do, but we need funds to run the vans and ensure that our food is delivered swiftly and safely. We are always looking for organisations to sponsor us and can offer some great recognition for this. We are also looking for extra volunteers to help rescue and deliver the food.
The new REAP by OzHarvest website should be live very soon, and anyone interested in registering their interest to support or volunteer will be able to do so via this website. In the meantime, you can “Like” the REAP by OzHarvest Facebook page.
And finally, if you could invite three business people to lunch, who would they be and why would you invite them?
My first invite would be to Ronni Kahn, the creator of OzHarvest. She is one of the most incredible and inspirational people I have ever met.
Secondly, I would invite Father Chris Riley. Even though you wouldn’t necessarily think of him as a business person, he has done an amazing job with not-for-profit businesses such as Youth of the Street, and he would be so fascinating to speak to.
Thirdly, I’d invite one of the members of our community who wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to meet and dine with these two wonderful people.
Thanks for your time, Katrina.
This column was from issue 117 of Greater Port Macquarie Focus.