A revolutionary initiative in Australia is seeing airline food rescued and delivered to vulnerable members of the community.

OzHarvest is Australia’s leading food rescue organization, collecting quality surplus food from over 2,000 businesses around the country and re-distributing meals to those in need.

Food rescue charities aren’t new, but OzHarvest thinks outside the box. By collaborating with airlines and airports Australia-wide, OzHarvest collects an additional 480,000 meals of food each year. “Which makes an enormous difference to schools in disadvantaged areas” Fiona Nearn of OzHarvest told Global Citizen.

Read More: 7 Gross Foods of the Future

The food that the OzHarvest team collects from airports and airlines mostly comes from either cancelled flights or food packages on flights that went unopened.

“Pretty much anything you’re seeing on an airline is something we can redistribute, as long as it’s still in a fit state to eat,” said OzHarvest Brisbane state manager Cameron Hickey. OzHarvest ensures “all food collected meets the food handling guidelines of the various state Health Departments and is in strict compliance with all applicable legislation” explains Nearn.

Australia is leading the way by being one of the only countries to work with airports and airlines to minimize food waste. Laws regarding food redistribution can be very restrictive, often making it impossible for charities to get through all the red tape.

Read More: Everything You Need to Know About Food & Hunger

In Australia, legislative reform in 2005 now allows food donors to provide food to charitable causes without fear of liability under the Civil Liabilities Amendment Act. This makes an enormous difference in bridging the gap between excess food produced, and those who go hungry.

Collecting and redistributing food not only helps eliminate hunger, but also food waste. In Australia over 4 million tonnes of food is wasted every year and 2 million people rely on food relief. OzHarvest has been instrumental in lowering these figures, having “diverted over 17 million kilos of quality surplus food from landfill, and delivering more than 50 million meals to people in need” says Nearn.

Ronni Kahn set up OzHarvest in 2004 after being shocked by the amount of surplus food from her event management business; rather than letting the excess food go to waste she would deliver it to a homeless shelter.

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“We plan on reducing food waste by 50% by 2025,” Kahn told journalists. “That's the goal.” In addition to airports and airlines, OzHarvest collects food from supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, businesses and catering companies nationally.

The ambitious goal of reducing food waste by 50% in the next nine years is something all of us can contribute to. Research shows that the contents of 1 in every 5 shopping bags ends up in the bin, that’s $1,036 worth of food is thrown away in the average household every year. Collectively, Australians waste 4 million tonnes of food every year, so we’ve got a lot of work to do. Some simple tips to cut down food waste at home include; planning meals, shopping to a list, checking the food in your fridge before hitting the shops, starting a compost and loving your leftovers!

Read More: This Guy Spent $2.25 on Food Last Year. Here's How.

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Defeat Poverty

Airline Food's New Purpose: Feeding the Poor in Australia

By Dina Bloom