Four Years of Food Rescue in Canberra

Jun 15, 2015 2:05 PM ET

AECOM Impact blog

Tran Wilson is a senior project manager, operations, in AECOM’s Canberra, Australia, office. In her most-recent blog post, she discusses how volunteering with OzHarvest’s food rescue program in Canberra has impacted her. 

It was late 2011 — just after my start with AECOM in Canberra, Australia — when I was asked to help set up a local  community outreach volunteering program through the AECOM Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, which contributes to — and makes a visible and positive impact in — the communities where we work and live. This was a vision that Andrew Springall, regional manager for the Canberra office at the time, had for years. Around that time, I met Dave Burnet, director of OzHarvest Canberra, and was immediately struck by his compassion and determination.

Burnet shared his challenges while trying to establish the first-ever food rescue program in Canberra. “We were told there wasn’t a need for a program like this in Canberra,” he exclaimed. But he knew that the opposite was true.

A partnership was formed
In just a few years, Dave and his dedicated team proved that there was a dire need for a local food rescue program. By 2011, the OzHarvest team was supporting approximately 60 charities and providing nearly 1,300 meals a day to those in need in the Canberra community alone. By the time the AECOM team signed on, they had only just received their third van donation, and it was getting very busy. There was a lack of volunteers on Fridays, which is one of the busiest food rescue days of the week. Since we recently organised a group of committed and passionate volunteers who were eager to support the cause through the AECOM Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, it was a perfect partnership.

As a volunteer, I am able to play a key role in OzHarvest’s food rescue operations. I work closely with the driver to ensure the schedule runs smoothly by helping to manage the timely food collections and drop offs from the donors to the charities throughout Canberra. It’s a win-win-win for everyone involved — a win for the recipients who depend on the food; a win for keeping the tonnes of excess food from ending up in landfills each year; and a win for the food rescue team, donors and volunteers who are able to contribute to the local community in a meaningful way.

What it means
The greatest reward of the volunteer experience has been the ability to gain a sense of connection with, and greater understanding of, the community.

John Duve, an AECOM volunteer since 2011, said it best, “Going out in the van grounds you, and allows you to reflect on the wider community and your place in it. It allows you to appreciate what a great opportunity it is to work at AECOM when you compare it to some of the struggles within the wider community, not only for those unfortunate enough to be living hand-to-mouth from week to week, but also for those in the retail and community service industries.”

On November 25 of this year, AECOM employees will celebrate four years volunteering as part of the company’s Canberra Food Rescue Volunteer program — a huge milestone and a true community effort!

Check out more blog posts on corporate social responsibility on the AECOM Impact blog!

Check out my video to experience a day in the life of a food rescue volunteer with OzHarvest!

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