First published with The Courier –

The Ballarat Foundation is on a mission to feed more than 100 people for less than $1 a head.

Guests will sit down to an Asian banquet on Saturday evening made from rescued food for an event as part of Plate Up Ballarat.

The total food bill will be less than $100.

“The event we are trying to put on in many ways is a replica of what happens day in day out at charitable food relief agencies,” Ballarat Foundation chief executive Matt Jenkins said.

“It will showcase how resourceful you can be with rescue food… but you can’t do it alone.”

The banquet, titled ‘Food for Thought’, is a spectacular show of community collaboration.

A sangria made by Mitchell Harris Wines will begin the evening using leftover wine from pouring bottles and those with damaged labels.

Ballarat Neighbourhood Centre community cooking program participants made samosas using vegetables from their community garden.

PICKING VEGGIES FRESH: Ballarat Neighbourhood Centre cooking class students Ermalyn Reed, Roselyn Suarez, Santiaga Cabansag pick vegetables with coordinator Kate Gillett to use in their class. They are making samosas for the Asian banquet using produce from the garden. Picture: Lachlan Bence

They will put their skills to the test as volunteer wait staff, serving dumplings made from surplus pork shoulder donated by Western Plains Pork, in an Asian broth created by Catfish head chef Damien Jones.

Ballarat butcher John Harbour donated duck bones to create the broth. He had frozen the bones after making duck sausages.

YMCA Ballarat supplied vegetables grown in their community garden at the Delacombe hub.

FRESH AND GREEN: YMCA Ballarat health promotions officer Georgia Savage is excited to work on the expansion of the community garden at Delacombe, to supply more fresh food for all. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Japanese savoury pancake Okonomiyaki will be made from Bungaree potatoes that didn’t make the cut for McCain.

Ballarat Specialist School FARM cafe created bread and butter pudding with bread left over from the bakery.

Suzi Fitzpatrick from Nouvelle Orleans made poached quinces to accompany the pudding.

Ballarat Foundation’s Matt Jenkins said it had been a challenge to bring the event together with a limited budget and resources.

“It has taken a lot of people and a lot of knowledge and skill to come together,” he said.

“The challenges are the same as Anglicare, the Salvation Army and all of the agencies that are trying to put food out every day in Ballarat would face. They are trying to supply food cheaply, with a limited amount of resources, staff and volunteers.

“Yet we still want to make the food nutritious and healthy.

“Like this event, agencies are reliant upon generous donations, volunteers and collaboration of the entire community. The event we are trying to put on is in many ways a replica of what happens day in day out.”

new report released last month revealed food insecurity as a deeply entrenched and complex problem in the Ballarat community. More than 12 per cent of Ballarat’s population experience food insecurity.

Monash University dietitian students surveyed 100 Ballarat community members who accessed emergency food relief programs for the report Impacts of Food Insecurity in Ballarat.

They found 78 per cent of those surveyed experienced moderate to severe hunger, and 72 per cent went one to days without eating in the past week.

IN THE KITCHEN: Pupils Sebbie, Taj, Joey, Hayley, Chase and Dylan have helped in the kitchen at the farm at Ballarat Specialist School with chef Michelle Hastings who has been making bread and butter pudding. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

The banquet will be a display of the power of food redistribution.

With knowledge, expertise and an understanding of logistics, surplus food and food that doesn’t meet commercial standards can be supplied to those in need.

And the ability to distribute food in Ballarat is expected to improve in coming years.

Not-for-profit organisation Foodbank, in partnership with the Ballarat Foundation, is set to establish a food distribution centre in Ballarat by 2019.

The centre will act as a pantry to charities and community groups who feed those in need.

“Food is there to be rescued, the problem is with distribution,” Ballarat Foundation fundraising coordinator Margo Pettit said.

“It is about distributing excess food safely at a time when it is fresh enough to be rescued.

“The food industry is actually quite good about minimising wastage.”

The event will showcase how resourceful you can be with rescue food… but you can’t do it alone.

Judy Croagh from Western Plains Pork said it was important to minimise food wastage in the food industry.

“If we haven’t sold enough pork in one week we freeze it and sell it frozen,” she said.

“We don’t waste anything. In so many countries around the world, whether it be the Chinese or the Europeans, they eat every bit of the pig.”

Ballarat butcher John Harbour said little was wasted with the expertise of a local butcher.

“We use the whole carcass. You would be surprised by how little is wasted,” he said.

“Bones are sourced for making stocks and people also buy them for their pets. A certain amount of fat is retained on the meat for flavour.

“Customers look for various cuts, particularly slow cooking, braising and stewing cuts this time of the year.”

Meat and protein is often lacking when those in need present to Ballarat charitable food relief services, Salvation Army Ballarat team leader John Clonan said.

While fresh fruit and vegetables are regularly available from supermarket collections, quality meat is often missing from the Salvation Army meals program menu.

Mr Harbour is one Ballarat businessman who donates meat to a charitable food relief service, but Mr Clonan is hoping more will throw their support behind the cause.

Mitchell Harris Wines owners John Harris and Craig Mitchell. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

This philosophy of food waste minimialisation translates to the wine industry.

John Harris from Mitchell Harris Wines said winemakers aimed to minimise what was poured down the sink.

“Just like good chefs have minimal waste, good wine makers will find a home for all the various bits and pieces of wine as well,” he said.

Wines with damages labels may be used for pouring stock. Small amounts left in the bottle when wines are poured by the glass are often used for cooking, or mixed together for sangria.

“It is all perfectly sound and drinkable, it is just about repurposing,” he said.

Ballarat Foundation’s Matt Jenkins said the Victorian Railway Institute was chosen to host the Asian banquet to physically represent the idea of repurposing.

It will encourage an alternate way of thinking, using recycled decorations, and banana leaves instead of plates, and generate a conversation.

There’s some food for thought.