2 minutes with Kellie Watson
Occupation: General Manager
Organisation: FareShare Queensland
What was the food culture in your family growing up?
I was brought up in a small country town in Victoria. The staples were meat and three veg. My parents were very conservative eaters but on the upside, Mum made a mean jelly slice. I didn’t experience food from other cultures, including Italian until I got down to Melbourne for university. I had Thai when I was 18 and it blew my mind. Actually that gap - between what I’d experienced and what food could be – was why I wanted to find out more about and work with food.
What in your background lead you to work for FareShare?
After university, I worked various jobs. When I was 30 I decided that I wanted to work with food, so I got into catering. I worked my way up to head chef, even though not formally qualified, but I was always looking for something more community-minded. I heard about FareShare and got a gig with them on Thursday evenings volunteering. They were looking to expand and they approached me to apply. I ended up designing the kitchens in Melbourne and over 8 years have worked in various capacities.
What are the steps to getting a meal to a person in need?
FareShare looks to cook meals. It’s organisations like Oz Harvest who take food directly from cafes or restaurants and deliver it to agencies. It's a different logistical model. However, if a wholesaler has 20 kilos of rice, FareShare would love it and will send a driver to pick it up immediately. If someone has 20 pallets of product that's a job for Food Bank. We're not set up to take remaining catering and the like. That said, one of the best thing that businesses can do is to look around at their community to see who is doing it tough. Can you give them a hand?
Many Melburnians might be familiar with your Abbotsford garden by the rail line. How did that come about?
The meal we give someone might be the only meal they get that day and we need to jam-pack it full of vegetables. During some seasons of the year, we were struggling to get enough vegetables. I thought, somewhat naively, why can't we grow our own? The RACV came on board, and with the land through VicTrack, we were able to get it up and running. We also got offered some land at Moorabbin Airport. Our gardens now supply over 50 tonnes of fresh produce per year. Of course, now everyone wants to volunteer in the garden, though it is hard work.
FareShare is opening in Brisbane, tell us about that.
Foodbank Australia came to us and asked if we were interested in setting up interstate. Foodbank Queensland collects more food than any other in Australia. Working in collaboration, they get all the food in and we do our bit – which is cook in big volumes – then they distribute through their network. Brisbane can potentially make 5 million meals per year in a staged development over 5 years. Unfortunately, food insecurity is only growing.
How many meals will FareShare make this year?
In Victoria, we should make 1.25 million meals and around half a million in Queensland. We should be able to hit the ground running as we've been doing it so long and have got equipment that is just big versions of what we use in Melbourne.
How can a business get involved?
Businesses can donate food or other resources such as food handling gloves etc. We've also had some wonderful partnerships over the years. One year, we partnered with the Lincoln Hotel during The Age Good Food month to present meals from rescued food. If you're a big business, you might like to hold corporate shifts in the kitchen. Get in touch.
How can an individual get involved?
Individuals can get involved by volunteering for us. There is a waiting list in Melbourne, however, if you're in Brisbane, please drop us a line. Otherwise, you might be able to help us with things we find difficult to source. We love people from the hospitality sector because they just get it; they don't muck around, they just get on the tools.
What has been the most rewarding thing in your work with FareShare?
I’m really lucky that my job has so many rewards about it. The biggest being the opportunity to make a difference to those who really need it. There’s also the sustainability aspect to it that I really like. I love working with people from different walks of life and cultures who are actively looking to make a difference. That's what I was looking for when I made the change to a non-profit.
And the most surprising thing?
It came as a real shock to me how many Australians are doing it tough. I thought poverty was a third world problem and to have so much exposure of it in my own backyard really shocked me.
Interview by Amanda Kennedy. Amanda is an artist currently doing a writing degree. You can find her on Instagram @artbyamandakennedy