In September 2022, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) engaged Healthy Cities Illawarra (HCI) to undertake a pilot project to ascertain the value and merit of a Regional Food Donation Coordinator (RFDC). The RFDC’s role was defined as strengthening connections and increasing collaboration across the food rescue and relief sector to increase rescued food donations in the Illawarra region.
An important factor in the decision to work with HCI was their governance of well-established community coalition, Food Fairness Illawarra (FFI). Vast networks and on the ground community collaboration in the food security and community nutrition space for more than ten years made HCI well-placed to pilot a coordinated approach to food donations.
The methodology of this pilot project involved four stages:
- Identification of barriers and opportunities within the food and relief sector from the perspective of food relief agencies, food rescue organisations and food donors.
- Examination of the barriers and opportunities and interrelated relationships between stakeholders to highlight multiple intersections where the RFDC could effectively provide proactive support, identify strategic opportunities, and foster strategies and activities to drive positive change.
- Implementation and process evaluation of pilot activities designed to drive positive change.
- Evaluation of the pilot activities and identification of key tasks for the role of a RFDC.
There are several conclusions that we have drawn from this pilot that demonstrate that a position accountable for a collective, organised operational system is advantageous to a wider ability to collect surplus food and redistribute to those in need in a timely manner. Also, that this can assist in alleviating current supply and logistics issues as well as environmental (e.g. reduced greenhouse gas emissions) and social (e.g. vulnerable people going without food) issues.
Key findings of the RFDC pilot include:
- The adoption and expansion of RFDC positions throughout NSW could effectively coordinate processes, activities and stakeholder networks to increase food donations to the charity sector and reduce food waste.
- RFDC positions need to be housed within appropriate organisations with a regional remit to be effective.
- RFCC positions need to be adequately resourced for a significant period to result in effective change.