Nosh Food Rescue’s fight against food waste

When Hanneke van Linge was volunteering at a soup kitchen in Krugersdorp in 2015, she was confronted with a lot of food waste. She resolved to start an initiative with an important goal: to prevent food from ending up in landfills while feeding the hungry.

Hanneke set up Nosh, a non-profit ‘meta-charity’ that rescues food from major retailers and other sources along the food value chain, passing it on to feeding schemes, soup kitchens and shelters.

By diverting and redistributing perishable surplus food, Nosh hopes to reduce the effects of climate change and reduce food insecurity. Between 2020 to 2022, it stopped 2,267 tonnes of food from ending up in landfills, which translates to almost 6-million meals. This year, they’ve already passed the 7-million meal mark.

We spoke to Hanneke to find out more.

Hanneke received the FOOD XX Women in Food award in the Giving Back category in 2022. Photo: Facebook 

What is your dream?

A South Africa without hunger, and zero food in landfills! Living in a country like South Africa, which has such glaring inequality, poverty and widespread food insecurity, has fuelled my innate activist nature. I love food and abhor waste so it was inevitable that I would end up combining these two passions.

What does Nosh do?

Nosh Food Rescue is a non-profit social enterprise acting as a ‘meta-charity’, providing rescued food to a network of shelters, soup kitchens and feeding schemes. We aim to mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce food insecurity by diverting, repurposing and redistributing prepared and perishable surplus food that is still wholesome and nutritious. 

How do you decide who to distribute the food to?

We have an existing network of feeding schemes that form part of our distribution network, as well as an increasingly long waiting list of organisations hoping to receive support in some way. 

Physical proximity is often instrumental in allocating donations and we constantly assess which produce is most suited to which beneficiary organisation and whether the beneficiaries have the infrastructure, skills and equipment to process any given type of produce.

Where does Nosh get the food from?

We rescue surplus produce from a range of sources all along the food value chain, literally from farm to fork. We get donations from retailers and food processors, culinary institutions and events companies, caterers and farmers, as well as the farmers’ markets, individuals and food vendors. The permutations are endless.

We have guidelines in place to assure the safety, hygiene and appropriateness of donations and we are developing a comprehensive skills development and training programme to uplift the people in our beneficiary network with respect to all aspects of food production, preparation, service and preservation.

By using food that would otherwise end up in landfills, Nosh lessens carbon dioxide emissions. Photo: Facebook

What does a typical Nosh meal include?

Due to the nature of our sources, Nosh doesn’t provide full meals as such, as this is more the territory of the individual feeding schemes that cater for their respective communities and needs. Produce sourced by Nosh only forms a supplemental part of the meals served by beneficiary organisations, who also share with other feeding schemes when they receive a glut of something. 

How many tonnes of food have you rescued?

Our 2020 to 2022 impact report reflects 2,267 tonnes of food rescued, which translates to 5.93- million meals. Preliminary calculations for 2023 indicate that we’ve already exceeded the 7-million meal mark, which we will be able to report on after the end of June.

Tell me about your Odd Plate Dinners

Nosh has been presenting monthly Odd Plate Dinners since launching them on World Food Day on 16 October 2018. Menus at these events are made up solely of salvaged produce and foodstuffs rescued by Nosh, creatively prepared and exquisitely presented to show that even unloved produce can shine and delight.

Odd Plate events are a fundraising mechanism and aim to broaden the Nosh network and supporter base by creating a platform to educate and engage with diners around the pressing issues of hunger and food waste as well as break existing barriers to entry when it comes to utilising food that would otherwise be discarded for some often-artificial reason or other.

The events also enlighten and educate the chefs, kitchen professionals and hospitality students involved in food wastage. These dinners serve to provoke conversations around how individuals can engage and get involved with the work we do and introduces diners to some of the amazing beneficiary organisations Nosh serves. 

The next Odd Plate event will be a lavish luncheon and is being held at the Oakfield Farm wedding venue in Muldersdrift on Saturday 29 July.

Nosh’s Odd Plate Dinner in May was mostly created from Shoprite produce that was saved from the landfill. Photo: Facebook

What challenges does Nosh face?

One of the hurdles we face is our country’s legislation pertaining to the liability of what happens to surplus food, which can easily discourage producers and retailers from donating. Most other challenges tend to be resource-related. 

What is the one thing you want people to know about Nosh?

We are not only passionate about reducing food waste, but ultimately all of our projects are contributing towards our Blue Sky dream, which is building a more equitable food system. 

What is Nosh’s most significant achievement so far?

Our motto is: ‘Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.’ We have achieved our milestones on a handful of shoestrings, without top-heavy, expensive infrastructure, building a shallow and interconnected network of people passionate about uplifting their communities through better access to food. 

What do you love about your job?

Seeing the volumes of salvaged produce gives me a thrill every time. It is incredibly satisfying to see 20 tonnes of frozen chicken feet or 750kg of rescued ginger and know that it is not going to waste.

What is your pet hate?

I wish people would stop being so blinkered about their own individual impact… While it is true that political and economic will is necessary for broad, systemic change, our personal habits and ingrained consumerist behaviours most definitely have a knock-on effect on the wasting of food. Not everyone can become a food-waste warrior, but we should all be more conscientious about how we interact with food and the world.

How do you keep up with news about your sector?

Food waste is very topical around the world right now so there are lots of interesting initiatives happening. My inbox is absolutely overflowing with newsletters from initiatives at all levels, ranging from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to individual food salvage projects. 

Nosh is a voluntary associate of the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa’s Food Loss and Waste Initiative launched in 2019 and I sit on various panels working on multipronged approaches towards food waste reduction, which also keeps me in the loop. 

Where is Nosh based?

We’re in Randburg, Johannesburg. Our active beneficiary organisations are mostly situated across Gauteng. Our waiting list gets longer every day and consists of feeding schemes across the country so we do our best to match donations of surplus outside of Gauteng with suitable recipients.

How big is the team?

We are still very much founder-led and driven, though we have recently brought on board two subsidised interns through a work-readiness programme. That said, our network of beneficiary organisations represents the logistical capacity of Nosh as well as the physical serving activities, so we very much consider them to be part of our team.

What does the future hold for Nosh?

We are working towards expansion across South Africa and we are also in the process of launching an exciting collaboration in Botswana in mid-July. 

We would love to be able to move forward with our plans for multipurpose premises, which would better encompass all of our Blue-Sky projects and goals, as well as furthering the development of our mobile culinary skills development units. 

If any individual, company or institution would like to contribute or collaborate in some way, whether it be through tax-deductible donations or assistance with skills or infrastructure, we would love to engage.

How can people help or get involved?

Monetary support is always welcome of course, as we are entirely dependent on donations and private goodwill. We would also love to hear from anyone who would like to contribute their professional skills pertaining to all aspects of business and social enterprise development.