fbpx Skip to main content

Have you ever been told it’s better to give than to receive?

There’s something about doing something for someone else without the expectation of reward or recognition that makes us feel good, lifting our spirits and connecting us to something bigger than ourselves.

It’s because the act of giving or helping others activates the brain’s reward centres triggering the release of dopamine.

Not only that, when busy helping you get to meet and connect with new people triggering higher levels of serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins our other feel-good hormones that help to mitigate some of our daily stress and give our immune system a bit of a boost.

This week we celebrated World Food Day and my reflection was, “aren’t we lucky to live in such a great country such as Australia where we have access to such beautiful produce to keep us healthy and well?”

But this isn’t the case for all Australians.

I was shocked to discover that four million have “food insecurity” – they don’t know where their next meal is coming from and even worse, one million of those are children.

Worse still, is the understanding there is enough food for everyone. The problem is we waste so much, perfectly usable food.

Yesterday I spent a very happy morning “Cooking for a Cause” with OzHarvest, the food rescue charity founded by social entrepreneur Ronni Kahn. Donning bright yellow aprons, we (five friends from the entrepreneurial business world) entered the OzHarvest kitchen feeling like Masterchef participants about to embark on a team challenge. Which is exactly what it was!

Under the expert guidance of chef Fiona, we got on with the business of cooking up a storm: chicken curry and spicy potato patties using rescued food.

The food is donated by supermarkets, restaurants, airlines, hotels and food outlets to name a few. What struck us, was there was nothing wrong with the food – it was perfectly fresh and usable. A couple of minor blemishes on a tomato was about it.

If we’re serious about wanting to do something to ensure every Australian has enough to eat (and do something good for the planet), there is so much potential to make better use of what we have already got.

Did you know:

  • Almost half of all the fruit and vegetables grown are wasted
  • One in five shopping bags of food ends up in the bin
  • Four million tonnes of food ends up as landfill (equivalent to 8,400 Olympic sized swimming pools)
  • If food waste was a country it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the U.S. and China!

We waste so much.

Over two hours, we chopped and peeled and stirred and the delicious smells of toasted spices wafted through the air. We chatted and laughed as we worked, and before we knew it, our time was up and we had to quickly divide the food into containers ready to be taken out for distribution.

Then, we got to taste test our creations. I have to say it was pretty darn good. Really good food prepared with love and enough to feed 100 people. Wow!

We feel pretty darned chuffed with our efforts knowing we had made a positive difference through our small contribution. It felt good knowing others were going to enjoy a delicious hot meal that they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

You might be thinking, “Nice work Jenny but how is this relevant to me in my crazy busy life where I don’t have time to scratch myself even though I know others are doing it tough?”

We can all make a difference.

Doing Good for the Greater Good is Great

  1. It’s a sanity saver.
    We are all ridiculously busy, working super hard, looking after our families, trying to hold everything together and life is stressful! However, taking time our like this takes you completely away from all those worries and frustrations. You’re focused on something completely different; it consumes all your attention and you’re fully present in the moment.
    As a group, we acknowledged the experience provided us with some “healthy escapism” with the time spent making us feel less stressed and happy, plus we’d had a whole heap of fun.
  2. It’s a way to reclaim time.
    It’s funny how this works, but it’s only when we press pause on our “usual” to do something different (and trust me we were working hard, this wasn’t a lay back on the lounger sipping cocktails moment – nice thought that would also be) that we get to appreciate that, actually, we do have the rime for these kinds of activities. It stops the contact replay of that boring tune: “I’m too busy/tired/overwhelmed” and reconnects us to understanding that we do have all the time we need to do the things we want to, to lead a fulfilling life.
  3. It’s a social connector.
    Ninety-five of all those who work at OzHarvest are volunteers. They come together to donate their time, energy and passion in something they believe is for the greater good. It brings together people from all walks of life. It connects people through compassion and love. This is humanity at work.

Because we celebrate life with food.

Taking the time to plan what we will eat and how to share our table with family, friends and those in need of a meal only requires a little bit of thought to reduce the waste.

Final take-aways

Everyone benefits from access to good food. OzHarvest not only rescues and redistributes food, but it also provides nutrition training to vulnerable communities and hospitality training to disadvantaged youth.

And the cost of all this?

For every dollar donated, OzHarvest can provide two meals.

Fifty cents for a healthy, nutritious meal.

How you can help

  • Become a volunteer.
  • Plan your food shopping to minimise waste.
  • Compost your food waste and put it in the garden, not landfill.
  • Avoid over-packaged food and buy in smaller quantities. We don’t need to always buy the “special” two for one, especially if half then gets wasted.
  • Use up your leftovers and get creative in the kitchen!
  • Invite people to share a meal. With so many of us choosing to live alone, pooling our resources and taking turns to cook provides a glorious opportunity to try out new foods while enjoying the company of others.

Healthy nutritious food for all is a must, not a ‘nice-to-have’.

We know, from the science, how important our diet is to keep up healthy, both physically and mentally.

Doesn’t it make sense to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society, the ones most at risk of mental health problems and loneliness, get to receive food that will reduce their risk of anxiety, depression and suicide?

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

Leave a Reply