The trouble with ‘naked’ bread

Over the weekend 1MW founder Nat saw something that absolutely appalled her, going against everything that the 1 Million Women community stands for: which is saving energy, and cutting waste and pollution in our daily lives.

“So disappointed Thomas Dux Grocer – a couple of nights ago I saw at least 50 beautiful loaves of bread being thrown in the bin. When asked why aren’t they going to OzHarvest Sydney the reply was – Store policy – cant give excess food away. Thats disgraceful – share/add comment/like if you agree with us.”

Since Sunday, Thomas Dux has been in touch and explained that they do in fact work with food charities for the disposal of excess food, just not with excess bread – which instead in Sydney is being sent to the Earth Power Project, turning food waste into green energy. Today (Monday), Thomas Dux released this Facebook post:

“Some information regarding food donations from Thomas Dux. Since the first Thomas Dux opened in 2008, we’ve been donating unsold food to OzHarvest and SecondBite to help those in need. Our unsold food is forwarded onto organisations to help people who might otherwise not be able to afford a proper meal. Over the last three years, our Sydney stores alone have helped create more than 129,000 meals for the needy.

Demand for bread from food rescue organisations is low, so in Sydney, we have come up with an innovative way of converting the unwanted bread into green energy by sending it to the Earth Power facility. You can find out more information on them at:”

While it is clear Thomas Dux is placing a strong emphasis on reducing and managing food waste from its stores, a couple of significant issues still arise.

1. The reason why 1 Million Women campaigns so passionately in this area is that when food meant for people is wasted, most if not all of the energy, land, water, nutrients, transport, emissions and effort that has gone into producing it gets wasted too. While it’s preferable to send discarded bread for green energy than to landfill, it is still far better not to waste it in the first place.

2. Which leads to another important issue that has been brought to our attention – the overproduction of unpackaged bread in our society, also called ‘naked’ bread.

A spokeswoman fromScreen Shot 2013-09-02 at 6.32.20 PM Secondbite explained, “I’ve been told that there is more bread made in Melbourne daily then could ever come close to being entirely consumed.”

OzHarvest communications manager Louise Tran said, “Bread is the cheapest commodity, it’s so easy to keep churning out. For bakeries, if they want to make their shelves look full they have to keep making it.”

Our sources say that the most common culprits for the overproduction of bread are small bakeries. While the larger supermarkets can afford to discount their bread prices at the end of the day, many small bakeries can’t until near to closing time, by which point it is already too late.

Thomas Dux customer engagement manager, Stephen Ward today explained to 1 Million Women that on top of the fact food charities do not have enough room to take in any more bread, they will not take unpackaged fresh bread for safety reasons.

That’s something a spokeswoman for a local women’s refuge agreed with, explaining, “For us a big concern is people with nut allergies. We don’t know what naked bread has been in contact with or what’s in it.

“Even packaged bread is not high on our priority list. It’s not nutritionally balanced. We end up buying a lot of our own pre-packaged bread. We only have a finite storage capacity, and only 2 freezers, and fruit and vegetables are our priority.”

Stephen Ward explained the production of fresh bread as a ‘catch 22’ for his stores, saying, “It’s not an exact science. We order the amount of bread based off previous sales history. It’s the most difficult product to maintain in any store because of the short shelf life.

“We are not in the business of trying to be stuck with leftover bread. If we don’t make enough bread we’ll risk selling out, customers will be unhappy and we’ll lose money. We lose money if we have leftover bread. It’s in our best interest to make sure we have just the right amount.”

Oz Harvest says that its priorities lie with transferring the most notoriously wasted foods to those in need; but when it comes to bread, their freezers are so full that they cannot take any more.

They explained, “When we get the calls to pick up excess bread, mostly from small local bakeries, we redirect them to their nearest charities, for example a St. Vincent De Pauls, though a lot of the time they won’t have the room either.”

It is clear, from our conversations with many key players and our own observations that bread waste is a huge issue in our society, it also seems that there isn’t an easy or clear solution to this issue.

We will keep you updated with any further developments.

NOTE: Globally, it is estimated that up to half of all food grown goes to waste. Australians on average each throw away about 361 kilograms of food waste every year, the National Waste Report reveals. The Australia Institute found the average household throws out about $616 worth of food every year, with high-income/low-occupant households wasting the most.

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