‘Maree Thomson – this month’s Illawarra Fair Food Champion – is the general manager at Hidden Harvest, an organisation combating climate change by providing the tools to tackle food waste.’
Food for me really is everything. It’s the one thing that connects everyone with everything.Maree Thomson
Tell us a bit about your background – what started your passion for minimising waste?
Food for me really is everything. It’s the one thing that connects everyone with everything. It symbolises history, culture, community and social trends. All of these beautiful and complex aspects of humanity are encapsulated in each dish we eat. I studied Food Sociology at Uni which looks at all of the complex and beautiful interactions that make up and give meaning to a person’s experience of food. Through this, I believe that food can also tell a parallel story about our society at large through what is wasted: consumption without consciousness. Choosing not only what we eat, but how we eat it, can change this story for the better.
What role do you think minimising waste plays in a sustainable, equitable and resilient food system?
It’s fairly well known that there is enough food being produced today to feed everyone on the planet, yet there are still people going hungry. Generally speaking, there is a deficit of care towards the produce we use, as we aren’t aware of the time and resources it took to grow it, so there isn’t a second thought to throwing things out once they aren’t ‘useful’ anymore.
Minimising the waste produced in our own kitchens is a small thing that we can all do (everyone eats!) that contributes to changing this overarching narrative. Actively cultivating care towards not only the food we eat, but also what went into producing it, invites people to use more, and waste less.
Generally speaking, there is a deficit of care towards the produce we use, as we aren’t aware of the time and resources it took to grow it, so there isn’t a second thought to throwing things out once they aren’t ‘useful’ anymore.Maree Thomson
How does the work do you do at Hidden Harvest contribute to minimising waste?
We bring people to the table to talk about food waste in a positive way. A lot of the time when there is an environmental or social issue, it’s framed as a massive problem. At Hidden Harvest, we frame food waste as an exciting opportunity to learn tasty new ways to create positive impacts by sharing easy tips and tricks that we can all do to use more of what’s in our kitchen cupboards, and waste less.
What is one piece of advice you would give to people looking to minimise their waste in everyday life?
Keep an open mind while cooking! You can read most recipes as a suggestion rather than a set of rules. Don’t have spinach but have some kale in the fridge? Bingo! Want to make pesto but don’t have any nuts? Stale bread will give you the same texture. Don’t be scared to get creative!
What’s next for Hidden Harvest in 2021?
During February we are holding the Art of Food Waste- a two-week, volunteer-run celebration of the local community through art & food. We’re featuring the works of 20+ artists to provide our guests with the opportunity to see, feel and taste how delicious a more sustainable future will be.
Running alongside the open gallery will be a jam-packed schedule of special events across the two weeks, including a special Wasted Wednesday community dinner, life drawing, and some other special evening events.
It’ll also be an opportunity for our community to taste the delicious selection of gourmet plant- & cheese-based toasties that we create out of almost entirely rescued food. We’re very excited! Check out the event on our facebook or eventbrite.