Interview with Fair Food Forager

Choosing how and where I spend my money is important to me. This rule also applies where I choose to eat my food. 

Melbourne is known, unofficially, as the foodie capital of Australia. Being from NSW, I joke it's because the weather is not the best in Melbourne and they don't have the beautiful beaches Sydney has to offer, so the city has to entertain/lure people with something else. 

It feels like there is a new restaurant/cafe/venue opening up every day, making this city a competitive place to find a meal. And if I want to find a meal that meets my eco values, it can feel like I'm searching for a needle in a haystack. 

I value places that think about their waste (both food and packaging), composting, reduced plastics, community minded, local food, fair food, organic. 

Fair Food Forager helps me to pick a business that aligns with my values. Their website and smartphone app, connects people like me, with the food business I want to spend my money with. When I am looking for somewhere to eat, I simply put in my post code and can browse the ethical food choices in my area. 

Food business are added to the app and website, by every day eco conscious individuals or by businesses themselves. The team at Fair Food Forager will then asses if the businesses nominated for listing, align with their ethical values. 

I got to chat with the developer Paul Hellier about what inspired him to build his fair food community website and smartphone app. 

Interview with Fair Food Forager

Interview with Fair Food Forager

What is Fair Food Forager about?
Fair Food Forager is creating a competitive / business reason for food growers, sellers and artisans to include ethical and sustainable practices in their business model. To achieve this, we have created a website and smartphone app that lists the more ethical and sustainable options right across Australia. Basically we want to highlight the businesses that are worthy of your money and make consumers aware of some of the little but very positive things being done in thousands of food venues, everywhere. We want to change the way the world eats, by helping people make better and more thoughtful decisions regularly.

What inspired you to start the website?

After about a decade of picking up litter, daily, from my local beach and being frustrated by the constant supply. I decided I wanted to do more, have a greater impact and felt that technology had to be a part of whatever that solution was.

After another year of deep thought, consideration and talking to lots of people, I decided that food was the link I needed. After a trip away and trying to get myself a sit down coffee in a ceramic mug to no avail. I realized an app to help me find the businesses that care, was definitely the way to go. The rest is history.

We want to highlight the businesses that are worthy of your money and make consumers aware of some of the little but very positive things being done in thousands of food venues, everywhere. We want to change the way the world eats, by helping people make better and more thoughtful decisions regularly.

Interview with Fair Food Forager

Interview with Fair Food Forager

Tell us about your new app?
The Fair Food Forager app lists restaurants, cafes, grocers and suppliers who are making steps to be more sustainable and ethical. You as the consumer can help us populate the app, so that we can all work together to help people find food that is lighter on the planet.

Often when we are away from our hometown we end up settling for something not so healthy or ethical because, well we are just hungry and have already looked for a while and there just isn’t anything around. However it is regularly the case that there is something, we just don’t know where to find it.

Our plan is, that people discover these great caring businesses; they list them and help the next caring consumer to find it. Then as business owners realize that consumers are choosing ethical options, they will see the need to either increase their levels of sustainability or start tackling it in some way.

We have identified 11 categories of sustainable practices with individual icons (Sustainable Palm Oil is coming soon). At a glance, these icons identify what areas a business is tackling and helps the consumer make a choice based on what is important to them.

The icons list categories including; Fair Trade, Sustainable seafood, reduced food waste, reduced plastic waste, chemical free, local produce, homemade, charitable, ethical / free range, vegan and vegetarian.

What has been the challenges developing this kind of service?
Funding and time are by far the biggest challenges for us. I am not a web developer, so I had to pay someone with these skills to create the website and app. I’ve saved and borrowed money to make it happen, but I thought that if I’m going to get it off the ground, this is the quickest way.

The team has grown to 6 volunteers including myself, we all have bills to pay, and so everyone is working on Fair Food Forager in their spare time. It’s a team of motivated, go-getters, who all contribute massive world changing ideas. Though for now, we must prioritize and only do that which is most important in changing the way the world eats.

Interview with Fair Food Forager

If any readers would like to develop a website or app that relies on user input, what is your advice on how to approach it?
I think you have to talk about it and talk about it a lot, to everyone. Don’t worry about someone stealing it. Chances are they aren’t going to put in the work that you have, or they are going to copy it anyway, once you are live. You can hide your idea, but then no one will know about it and worse still, you will miss all of that invaluable input.

There are many reasons to talk about it. You might speak to that one person that can really help you get the word out there. Or, people will tweak and refine your idea with fresh ears and eyes and that could be the difference between something that works and something that doesn’t.

Also I think its important to tell the like minded, find your tribe and they will help you spread the word. You can’t be everywhere.

What plans does Fair Food Forager have for the future?

Our biggest plan is to make this platform valuable all over the world. I love the idea that I could travel around the world impacting less as I go. People could list their favorites, in say San Francisco that will benefit us when we travel there, and that person will benefit when they travel here in Australia. Everyone wins!

We are also working with some great partners on a variety of things, from reducing plastic waste to educating consumers on sustainable palm oil, sustainable seafood to reducing food waste. There is just so much good to do.

I have to add that I look forward to working with people like you Erin, people passionate about the state of the planet. I believe that we shouldn’t under estimate the power of our purchasing dollar, the more people choose to avoid over packaged, unethical, unhealthy food. The more business will listen and cater to what the people want.

As a community we can all help to minimize the negative impact that eating has on the planet.

If you had a moment in an elevator and could tell people just one thing, what would it be?

Just do something, start somewhere simple, make it a habit and go from there. You don't have to be perfect, but who knows, you might change others with your new behaviour.

Right now, the website and smartphone app are only available in Australia and New Zealand. If you know of a cafe/restaurant/venue or run a business of that nature, and you believe it should be listed on Fair Food Forager, PLEASE add it. I truly believe sharing is one of the most important actions that will help shift awareness. Plus, I love travelling around Australia and would prefer to support ethical, waste minded businesses as much as possible :) 

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