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A Recipe for Success: OzHarvest’s Efficiency Solutions Tackling Rising Food Insecurity

The OzHarvest team in WA was looking to find better ways to save more food and feed more people, as food insecurity continues to rise. But making savings whilst increasing productivity sounds impossible, right? Not necessarily…. A new way of thinking showed what was possible and the results speak for themselves.

  • Supply-chain innovation
  • Efficiency uplift

For many organisations, rapid, organic growth is cause for celebration. For OzHarvest, Australia's leading food rescue organisation, it’s a double-edged sword – or maybe knife is more appropriate. Operational growth means helping more Australians, but growing demand for their service means more Australians need help.

Life in Australia is pricey these days, people are feeling the pinch and charities are pushed to capacity. OzHarvest’s Founder, Ronni Kahn AO says their annual Community Needs Survey revealed that 73% of the charities they support had seen an increase in demand in the last six months. “Never in the 20 years of running OzHarvest, have I seen the demand for food so high for so long. Our charities tell us they are struggling to feed everyone and see new faces every day – a third of people seeking food relief are needing help for the first time in their lives,” said Ronni.

Jennifer Keen, OzHarvest’s WA State Manager, adds “Food insecurity just isn’t going away. There are so many new people needing our help and despite delivering 80,000 meals a week to charities across the region, we can’t keep up with demand.”

Current demand is even higher than during the pandemic, when their operations had to rapidly expand to keep up. The cost of this growth took a huge toll on both staff and volunteers, who were exhausted from working harder and longer hours.

The WA team knew something had to change, but turning people away while food was going to waste wasn’t an option. They needed to find better ways to save more food, to feed more people and alleviate pressure on the team.

But how could they do more with less? They decided to call in expert help, the result of which is now transforming OzHarvest’s operations nationwide.

80 min

per shift saved for drivers


reduction of manual handling


increase in food rescued


extra meals saved in 12 months

“We worked closely with logistics and client relationships teams –  and while interviewing people and analysing data was vital, to truly understand how to alleviate pressure on the team, we wanted to get hands-on”

- Chris Coldrick, Deloitte Partner

Zipping around the city rescuing food from supermarket loading docks isn’t a standard day in supply chain and procurement at Deloitte, but when the OzHarvest call came, the team knew immersing themselves in the world of food rescue was essential.

“Together with Deloitte strategy experts, we spent days alongside drivers, rescuing food and handing it to people in need. It was eye opening. Without this experience we could have easily missed critical but non-tangible pieces of the optimisation puzzle,” says Chris.

“It allowed us to quantify and prioritise things like impact to beneficiaries, kilograms collected versus quality of food collected and understand what makes certain pick-ups and drop-offs higher value than others.”

Creating close connections and a deep understanding of on-the-ground challenges resulted in the development of a protype solution that revolutionised efficiency, increased safety and productivity and helped empower the team’s decision-making to maximise impact. It included new KPIs, improving efficiency metrics, optimising network of stops and new processes like ‘automated crate weighing’ to reduce non-productive, manual, high-risk activities.

This set of recommendations showed OzHarvest what was possible, but recommendations alone can’t transform an organisation. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

For the Deloitte team, the proof was in the data.

“We tested our recommendations on the routes and analysed the before and after using historical data,” says Chris Gallen, Deloitte’s project lead. “This showed the true impact of the method and how much better the network could be.”

The proposed process improvements saved drivers up to 80-minutes per shift and reduced manual handling by up to 50%, contributing to the safety and wellbeing of OzHarvest's staff and volunteers. They showed that the efficiency KPIs and impact-maximising frameworks could achieve a 15% increase in food rescue while simultaneously reducing the number of stops in the schedule.

The proof-of-concept route planning tool demonstrated the benefits of dynamic route adjustment, confirming OzHarvest’s investment in route-planning technology, reducing fuel costs and CO2 emissions. 

“Every minute we’re on the road is precious. By removing many low-volume jobs from our runs, our drivers instantly saw an increase in their impact. Spending 20 minutes to complete an extra 80kg supermarket pickup, rather than a cafe with a few pastries is time well spent, making our drivers feel more valued and certainly a much better way to ‘Nourish our Country,’ says Paul Sangster, OzHarvest WA Operations Lead.

With 3.7 million households in Australia experiencing food insecurity last year, increasing productivity and efficiency means more quality surplus produce can be saved putting more food on the table for people in need. For the people of WA , those efficiencies meant OzHarvest could deliver 500,000 more meals in just 12 months. These learnings and strategies are now being put into practice nationally, so the incredible impacts can be realised on an even wider scale. 

“2023 saw a record number of people needing our help. We knew we needed to increase our impact to meet ongoing demand and a key part of this has been applying learnings from the great work with Deloitte and our WA team,” says Andrew Miller, OzHarvest National Food Rescue Lead.

“Through prioritising efficiencies within our model and fleet management, we’re optimising our efforts and channel resources effectively, ensuring that more food reaches more individuals in need each day.”

Now, that’s food for thought.

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