The average amount of trash produced per day and per person in Thailand is 1.14 kilo, and 64% of it is food. It might not sound like a huge number, but multiply that by its population, and that will give you an idea of our collective mess!
On the upside, thanks to many wise residents working on reducing substantially this figure, there is hope for a more sustainable city. I am thinking of initiatives such as The Sustainable Self, or No Plastic Bangkok.
Last week I went to the Thai Harvest | SOS’s headquarters, and discussing with Darra, their Executive Assistant, opened my eyes on what could be done to avoid wasting, and start helping more those in need instead.
Thai Harvest | SOS was launched in March 2016 with one commitment: reducing food waste in Thailand, and globally. Today, thanks to the dedication of Abigail Smith (Chief Operations Officer) and her team, over 200,000 meals have already been distributed, and that is only a part of what they do.
Photography Credit: Meghan Rogers (Picture above and article cover picture)
Getting to know the Organization
Not only in Thailand but at a global scale, there is still a huge lack of homogeneity in how the overall food production is being distributed. It is saddening to know that a big part will eventually go to waste.
Thai Harvest | SOS has strongly engaged in the battle against food waste initiated by Oz Harvest, and Scholars of Sustainance (SOS): an encouraging example that yes, we can be the change we want to see in the world (quoting Gandi).
For about 18 months now, together with their supporters and volunteers, the Bangkok based Organization is driving back and forth in the city to collect quality food donated by Hotels, Restaurants, Supermarkets or major Events and being redistributed where the needs exist.
What are the actions that Thai Harvest | SOS has initiated?
First, I would like to highlight the context we are in. Although the concept of rescuing and donating food to those in need might be anchored in our cultures as foreigners, let’s have in mind that in Thailand, this is still a recent concern, and the first steps are about raising awareness about food waste and to some extend about sustainable agriculture and sustainable sourcing. Thai Harvest | SOS as a pioneer, plays an important part as they might become a role model for generations to follow. They are indeed “planting a seed” in a world moving towards a more sustainable way of living.
There are two main routes for the rescued food to be donated. The inedible parts will be used for compost and distributed to farmers for permaculture or fermentation for instance. To give you an idea, since they started a year and a half ago, they diverted over 100 tons of food waste from landfills to produce compost with, allowing many farmers to grow their crops in a more sustainable manner.
The other route is for the edible food that will be delivered to orphanages (such as the Mercy Center), urban refugee camps or elderly homes.
From left to right: Faii (Donator Relationship Coordinator), Darra (Executive Assistant), Abigail (Chief Operations Officer), Bruce (Community Engagement Coordinator). Photography Credit: Meghan Rogers
Not only the edible donations allow those in need to be fed, but Thai Harvest | SOS has also developed an education role, especially within the refugee camps. Let’s keep in mind that each culture has its habits when it comes to nutrition, and one challenge that they have encountered was to present typical thai ingredients such as herbs and spices to refugees coming from Pakistan or Somalia. How to use them? Teaching nutrition and sharing recipes through their NEST Programme (Nutrition and Education Sustainable Training) is a way to provide more than just food, and a cultural interaction.
What are Thai Harvest | SOS’ biggest challenges?
Logistics! In order to be able to pick up and deliver food wherever it is needed, more vehicles would be of great use, as well as more manpower. There is so much to be done every day and Thai Havest | SOS is an organisation that is on a 24/7 schedule. To support this Non-Profit Organization, all donations are welcome, and there are no small donations: literally every thai baht counts. For every 20 THB donated, a meal could be served. In other words, a donation of 1,000 THB would allow 20 meals to be distributed.
How can we, individuals, do our part in reducing food waste?
Darra shared with me an interesting point. At the beginning, when the team contacted some restaurants, several would politely decline participating in food donations as they claimed they didn’t waste anything, or almost. They still left a few boxes, in case… which eventually filled up day after day. The moral of the story is: we do not even realize how much we waste, until we start paying attention.
So at our individual level, it all starts with paying more attention to how much we put in the trash. I also personally experience that the more I know about where my food is coming from and the work that has been put towards producing it, the more value I attach to it and the more I care about not wasting it.
To support Thai Harvest | SOS, if you would like to donate food (nothing that will spoil too quick), you can do so by contacting them here. If you work for a hotel, restaurant or any company dealing with (excess) food, you are more than welcome to get in touch too. On another note, personal care and hygiene products are also in need.
Donate now, as later might never happen!
From left to right: Jay, Faii, Toto and Arm (the three gentlemen from the Operations Team). Photography Credit: Meghan Rogers
Bruce and Pak (Agricultural Education Supervisor). Photography Credit: Meghan Rogers