Food wastage in Australia may be a multi-billion dollar a year problem, but one not-for-profit grocery store in Melbourne’s inner north is doing its bit to prevent produce from going to landfill.
The Inconvenience Store, located in Thornbury, is the latest incarnation from the team behind the not-for-profit restaurant Lentil As Anything.
Just like the restaurant, the Inconvenience Store is stocked with donated produce that would otherwise be thrown away.
“The idea was to make a difference in the food waste crisis,” project coordinator Astrid Ryan said.
And just like the restaurant, customers can pay as much or as little as they can or want.
“We wanted to provide people access to nutritious fruit and vegetables.
“When people are in financial crisis or difficult situations, it’s probably the thing they have least access to.”
Customers can stock their bags with food, ranging from fruit and vegetables to bread and some packaged items, and then leave a donation in a wooden box on the way out.
The bread is donated by nearby bakeries, while other produce comes from places such as the Preston Market or even Aldi.
The food may be a tad old or have an unusual appearance, but it is fine to eat.
“The food is free,” Ms Ryan said.
“We just ask if [customers] like what we’re doing, if they want this store to stay open, then to contribute what they can.
“We also need volunteers, so there’s always ways to help out.”
Waste expert Karli Verghese, from RMIT University, said food wastage in Australia was worth $20 billion a year.
“Of that $20 billion, it’s estimated up to $10 billion of that is happening in our households,” Dr Verghese said.
Figures like that convince Ms Ryan that there are plenty of opportunities for other like-minded stores to open.
“The more people who do food waste and food rescue projects the better,” Ms Ryan said.
“The more food is saved from going into landfill, the better it is for the environment and the more people that get fed.”