While walking more than 1400 km from the border of NSW and Queensland to Victoria, Queanbeyan’s Joash Taufa’ahau has had a lot of time to think and reflect on what he sees as one foot follows the other.
“The rubbish on the side of the road is the most common thing I’ve seen. There’s far more rubbish than roadkill,” he told Region Media as he made his way down the coast near Batemans Bay.
But it’s not rubbish that led him on his quest but waste.
Joash, a fit and enthusiastic 20-year-old who was the Karabar High School captain, is championing the issue of food wastage during the walk he’s undertaken for food charity OzHarvest.
He has also worked in the hospitality industry since he was 14 and admits to having thrown out food that could have helped someone hungry.
“When you finish a shift and you walk outside and see people hungry, I just felt it didn’t make sense. We have all this food and so many hungry mouths, so that’s why I’m doing this journey,” Joash says.
Having lived in the Solomon Islands and Tonga, Joash never had to face seeing food go to waste.
In Australia, according to Oz Harvest, $20 billion worth of food is wasted each year, while five million people experience food insecurity. In Canberra, Oz Harvest saves more than seven tonnes of food from going to waste and delivers nearly 22,000 meals throughout the region each week.
“Food is such a universal thing and all the people I’ve met along the way, I’ve been able to have these great conversations about food wastage,” says Joash.
“It’s a very strange topic to explain to people that hunger shouldn’t be a thing, but it is a big thing [even though] there’s still lots of food. It just doesn’t go to the right places.”
He said seeing people stockpile large amounts of food during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge concern that’s left him wondering how much is still sitting in cupboards or simply went to waste.
Joash’s daily grind to put a halt to hunger has seen more than $5700 raised towards his goal of $10,000. He says every dollar that goes to OzHarvest delivers two meals to vulnerable Australians.
He began his epic trek on 20 December at the border of NSW and Queensland and has been fueled by the food he can carry in his backpack and the kindness of people who have provided a meal along the way. In training, he did periods of intermittent fasting for up to three days without a proper meal.
His initial goal was to walk the circumference of NSW but revised it to the coastal fringe and has been able to average between 30 to 50 km most days. He finished his epic trek at Timbillica, just shy of the NSW and Victorian border yesterday (3 March).
But he isn’t done yet making a difference.
After taking some time to put his feet up, Joash will walk the circumference of the ACT later this month.
Surprisingly, he said his feet are blister-free thanks to tape and vaseline. He’s had to hitch a ride when conditions didn’t allow him to walk and is now used to the rush of passing trucks as he walks against the flow of traffic.
“There’s definitely been moments when I’ve had to stop walking just to be sensible, but there have been so many moments where I’ve walked in places you’d never see while driving. I’ve camped under the stars and got bitten by a few mozzies,” he said.
Joash took unpaid leave from his job as a teacher’s assistant and will return when he eventually stops walking for an issue he says needs to end.
“There should be enough food for everyone, especially if people aren’t greedy,” he says. “There are better ways to make the food we have go around.”