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What Inspires Me – Interview with Lyndon Galea

18th November 2016,     BY: CERES Education – Outreach Team



This month we interview Lyndon Galea, founder of Eat Up, a not-for-profit organisation helping feed hungry school kids. This collaborative program brings together organisations across the food value chain to address food insecurity in school aged children. In September this year, Eat Up were supplying lunches to 50 schools in Victoria, and had just ticked over delivering 30,000 lunches! 


1. How did you first become interested in environmental issues? 

As a country kid the connection to nature and the environment was ever present. We’d explore the local bush, swim in the rivers and climb the highest tree we could find at every opportunity.

Eat Up began after I read an article in the local newspaper that highlighted kids at two schools, both very close to where I lived, who were regularly going hungry at school. I was totally shocked to read this and felt compelled to try and help. I started by making sandwiches in the kitchen at home to take to the children at these two schools. Shortly afterwards, the two schools called back asking for more. It became clear at that point that a sustainable and long-term approach was needed to support these families and to give the children the fair chance to maximise their education. Collaborating with food waste charities, and utilising the large amounts of perfectly good food that is either in surplus or nearing the best before date, very quickly became a key part of our model. This partnership with organisations like OzHarvest and Foodbank has allowed us access to large quantities of bread, recess items and fruits at no cost, to provide direct to hungry kids and prevent this great produce from going to landfill.


2. What have been the biggest highlights of your journey so far?

The number of volunteers, businesses and organisations offering their support and expertise to help has been amazing. It is purely because of them, that Eat Up has been able to grow from helping kids at 2 schools in Shepparton to helping kids at 50 schools around Victoria. As I mentioned above, we’re able to source large amounts of food at no cost from food waste charities, and now food companies are also offering their product to us direct. Additionally we get huge numbers of volunteers who give their time to help us prepare sandwiches, including teams of Apprentice Chefs at TAFE schools – this is what has lifted our capacity to support so many more schools.

It is our goal now to support hungry kids right around the country. Upon reading that 1 in 8 children arrive at school hungry in Australia each day (Foodbank Australia). It is clear that there is still much more work to be done.

 

Participants at this year’s EduChange 2016 conference lending a helping hand with sandwich making for schools


3. What has been the biggest obstacle? How did you / are you overcoming it?

I think the biggest obstacles for Eat Up await us. Our key challenge is how do we replicate the scale and impact we’ve been able to have in Victoria, nationally. We’ll have to evolve from a grassroots initiative that is fully volunteer-led to one that is professional and widespread. I believe our model has the potential to help hungry kids throughout Australia, and that is the target we are setting ourselves.

 

4. What future plans or goals are you excited about?

Education is at the core of Eat Up’s mission. Our key impact measures are:

  • Has providing a lunch helped the child perform better in the classroom?
  • Are they engaging more?
  • Listening more?
  • And are their grades improving?

It is my long-term hope that Eat Up becomes just one of many initiatives we drive to help children maximise their education and equip them to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

 


5. What advice would you offer to someone wanting to begin a sustainability program at their school or organisation?

Get started! When Eat Up first began I never thought beyond those first two schools in Shepparton. Now, thanks to a huge amount of help Eat Up has grown to be able to support hungry kids around the state, and to have aspirations to do so nationally. Sure, there were doubts and procrastination early but just taking those first steps have proved to be so important and influential both for those we support and me personally. I have never done anything so satisfying or invigorating and simply trying something and giving an idea a shot, is really where it all began. 


Thank you Lyndon for sharing your story.


Visit Eat Up to find out more and how you can be involved.