SecondBite is one of the largest food rescue organisations in Australia, working with growers, manufacturers and retailers to rescue edible food from going to landfill. This food is then provided free of charge to charities that run food programs helping to feed hungry Aussies. Monica Logan from SecondBite reports.

One of the growers that SecondBite partners with is Red Gem Growers and Packers General Manager, Robert Cerchiaro, from Nar Nar Goon in Victoria. Red Gem has been growing and supplying potatoes to the retail and wholesale trade for more than 60 years. In the 1960s, Robert’s father Guido started picking potatoes in Gembrook before growing his own.

Today, Red Gem grows 15 potato varieties on 1,000 acres of farmland in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and far-north Queensland. All Red Gem potatoes are sorted and packed in Nar Nar Goon.

Imperfect looking potatoes can have a high social value

Red Gem has been donating potatoes to SecondBite for several years. It’s part of their approach to innovation, sustainability and reducing food waste.

At Red Gem, the potatoes go through several grading and inspection processes including an x-ray machine that checks them for holes, cuts and bruises. Australia has one of the highest standards for how potatoes look, which means that potatoes that don’t meet market aesthetic criteria are usually discarded. But Robert hates to see good food go to waste.

“There’s so much work that goes into growing the potatoes, it’s a shame to throw them out just because they aren’t the perfect shape. Especially when they are still good to eat, and people are hungry,” he says.

“These potatoes may not look as pretty, but they taste just as good.”

A straightforward donation process

SecondBite minimises pick costs as much as possible to make it easier for growers to donate produce. At Red Gem, the potatoes that don’t meet the market specifications are re-graded to sort out the good, edible potatoes from the waste. Robert arranges a pick-up easily with SecondBite by sending a text or email.

“It’s great to see potatoes that don’t meet the market specifications going to good use. These potatoes are only a peeler away from making a beautiful mash or roast to feed someone in need,” Robert says.

There are also other benefits that Robert and Guido see in donating their potatoes.

“Space is premium, especially in the cool store. When SecondBite collects the potatoes, it frees up our space and saves us time,” Robert explains.

Donated potatoes help to feed Aussies facing hardship

The potatoes donated by Red Gem get a wonderful second life. SecondBite provides rescued food free-of-charge to over 1,300 charities that run food programs helping to feed Aussies experiencing hardship. These charities turn the food into food relief packages, comforting meals and much more. During the 2020 financial year, the organisation redistributed free food equivalent to 45.4 million meals.

For charities partners like Our Big Kitchen in New South Wales, potatoes are a valued, versatile staple that are transformed into casseroles, curries and soups. The delicious, nutritious and culturally appropriate meals are then packed and provided to many other charities.

One in five Australians are affected by food insecurity and don’t have access to the safe, nutritious food they need. The recent droughts, bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic have meant the need for more donated fresh produce is greater than before.

Find out more

For information about donating food to SecondBite, please visit the SecondBite website or call 1800 263 283.

Cover image: Robert Cerchiaro from Red Gem Growers and Packers. Photo courtesy of Miranda Costello Photography.