Hidden Harvest Community Spotlight: Amy

Amy has been a dedicated member of the HH Community since it began. We asked her some questions about it:

How do you engage with the HH Community online?

In the past, I used to share the food saves I had made from the bins at the apartment block where I live, and the meals I had made using those salvaged ingredients. It astounds me what people will send to landfill! I haven’t been doing that so much in recent times because I haven’t been at the bins as much – I used to pick up litter walking home from the gym, and inevitably when sorting that litter in the bins I would find bags with perfectly edible food that my neighbours had disposed of. But with the lockdown I don’t do that walk to and from the gym, so haven’t been collecting litter.

I also love being involved in the Hidden Harvest Community to see what meals other people make, and pitch in with suggestions when someone asks, “What can I make with this?”

Amy’s neighbours threw out two packets of panko crumbs and she came up with this amazing meal!

Why do you engage with the HH community?

On a personal or household level, I’m passionate about (reducing) food waste because it doesn’t make sense to me that you would pay money for something and then not use it. But it isn’t only your personal money that gets thrown away, it is the time, energy and resources that has gone in to growing the food, moving it from A to B (and probably C, D, E, F…), you taking it home from the shops. What a waste for a food to go through all those processes only to be put in the bin. Every little bit of it is precious.

Amy’s samosas made from discarded pastry, homegrown re-sprouted spring onions, Green Connect carrots, red onion and red lentils from Facebook, curry leaves from my neighbour’s tree, housemate’s wrinkly capsicum, Hidden Harvest chilli coconut chutney, homegrown mint and broccoli stems.

How do you save food in your own kitchen?

My techniques for not wasting food centre around four things:

1) Preparing a weekly menu
Each week, I map out what I have on and plan meals around that. This is a lot easier in COVID lockdown, of course. No one is going to surprise you with “Do you want to go out for dinner tonight?” and you won’t be left with a meal you’re not going to need. In this process, I love looking at recipes, so safe to say I have a lot of knowledge on what I could possibly make with any given ingredient.

2) Knowing how much I eat
I have a good handle on how much I can eat and need to eat. This means I generally don’t buy more [fresh produce] than I can manage to consume before it goes manky, and I can write up a shopping list based on my menu plan for the appropriate quantities of each ingredient.

3) Being adventurous
Being adventurous means trying out different recipes so you increase your repertoire. It also means not adhering strictly to a recipe. So what if it says to use only capsicum and eggplant? You’ve got zucchini that needs eating? Chuck it in! And every part of it – don’t neglect the knobbly end of the zucchini…totally edible.

4) Being best friends with my freezer
If I know I am not going to get around to eating a particular ingredient before it goes manky, I make something with it that is freezable. And I have a little whiteboard on my freezer door where I write what is in that black hole so nothing gets forgotten at the back until rediscovery a year or two later.

Silverbeet leaves stuffed with lentil, sweet potato and feta, with a tomato sauce

Why is food sustainability important to you?

Food sustainability is my job. Really – I’m paid to do research on a project looking at how local governments and civil society are involved in creating a healthy, sustainable, and equitable food system. But beyond that, food is essential. Food is essential, but we’ve ended up in a world where the dominant system is wreaking havoc with our health as humans, and painting a pretty bleak future for ecological systems and the planet on which we depend. Like climate change, we’ve had evidence of this for a long time now, but again like climate change, we’re being too slow to act. Because it is essential, it isn’t something we can completely drop where it is an pick up the next best thing. We’re stuck with it, and that means finding ways to radically transform the food system to one that is going to see not only the next generation, but seven generations, living a life of maximum health on a planet that is still rich in biodiversity and non-human life.

If you’d like to join the Hidden Harvest Community, head over here!

First image of Amy by Sam St Jon

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