A food donation initiative dubbed Nourish and Flourish has been launched in Merimbula to reduce food waste and help those in need.
The initiative by the Bega Valley Shire Council aims to grow and strengthen links between food businesses and community pantries.
A number of community members have already signed up and gathered at Sapphire Life Opportunities on Friday to launch the program.
The project encourages businesses to partner with Council to donate their excess food to the community pantries and will create stronger links between food businesses and community pantries.
At the launch speeches were made by mayor Russell Fitzpatrick and representatives from some of the businesses involved.
"This initiative demonstrates what we can achieve when we all work together, with our community, our businesses and all the organisations involved," Cr Fitzpatrick said.
"It's wonderful to see people here who have worked hard towards a solution for helping people who are going through it tough."
Waste strategy coordinator at Bega Valley Shire Council, Joley Vidau said the volunteers, businesses and organisation involved are the key people to acknowledge in this initiative.
"I think its important to recognise that Christine and Peter from Sapphire Pantry and Janita from Sapphire Life Opportunity, without these guys' involvement, none of this would take place," Ms Vidau said.
"There would be nowhere for that excess produce to go to, so while everyone is amazing for donating, these guys are the absolute heroes without a doubt."
Ms Vidau said a series of advertisements would be launched on television, radio and social media from Sunday.
"What the ad shows is everyday people that are part of our community, taking a little bit of time to send material that was destined for landfill, to a place where it can be used by the community," she said.
Janita Fernandez from Sapphire Life Opportunities said they were thankful to council for having organised more businesses to get involved.
"We're really grateful for this next step, we're always looking to see what we can do to further what we're doing and this is a part of that," Ms Fernandez said.
"We're also really grateful to the businesses that already support us and for those that are going to come on board after this."
"There is a real need in every community, the need will always be there and if any of us have a chance to meet those needs then it's a great thing."
Ms Fernandez also acknowledged owners of the Sapphire Community Pantry, Christine and Peter for all the work they've contributed over the years
"Without them this initiative would not have come about."
Peter Buggy from Sapphire Community Pantry then stepped up to say he was happy to see the continuation of such a great idea that was first started by Christine several years ago with OzHarvest.
Christine Welsh said they have been receiving donations from Coles and Woolworths since 2014.
"They've been really good, but we had challenges reaching the smaller businesses," Ms Welsh said.
Ms Welsh said that with the food donated they are able to offer warm meals, recently they've run a free hot meal service to those in need.
Local Woolworths manager, Hamish Payne said they were proud to partner with OzHarvest and local businesses to distribute food to community pantries.
"A lot of time, planning and effort goes into making sure we've got the right quantities of the right products at the right times for all of our customers here in the store," Mr Payne said.
"Sometimes, we don't quite get that right and there's a little bit too much stock.
"It's fantastic to be part of council's Nourish and Flourish program and get this food to the people who really need it. The added benefit is that we're also able to minimise the amount of food that gets wasted."
Local businesses take joy in donating towards a good cause
The number of businesses included in the advertisements for the program include: Wild Rye's, Eden IGA, Pambula Fruit Market, Coles, Woolworths, Club Sapphire and Farm on the Green.
These businesses are among a growing number of Bega Valley businesses reducing food waste by donating their unsold and surplus food to the community.
Matt Crossley from Wild Rye's in Pambula said for the past decade they have been donating food to the community.
"We do everything we can to keep good food out of landfill," Mr Crossley said.
"Each week we donate food that might not be cosmetically beautiful, or is excess to what our customers need, to community pantries and other local charities," Mr Crossley said.
"It's so easy to do. It's such a great feeling when the truck leaves to distribute this food to a good cause, rather than have it go into a rubbish truck and to landfill."
Owner of Pambula Fruit Market, Theo Demetriou, said they've been donating food ever since they set up shop.
"The need to donate comes from the heart, we've been doing this ever since we came up here and we'll keep on doing it." Mr Demetriou said.
Bega Valley Shire Council Project Officer, Sarah Eastman said Nourish and Flourish supported community pantries in Eden, Merimbula and Bega.
"This project addresses three separate issues-what to do with surplus food, connecting the people who need it with more affordable food, and a landfill site which is filling up too fast," Ms Eastman said.
"We are excited to showcase the community champions who are already doing great work in this area."
"We are so proud of the way our shire looks after people in need while working hard to reduce what goes into landfill."