Earlier this year, The One Box team had an exciting opportunity to trial a program which involved donating a weekly banana snack to children in Victorian schools. Simply named ‘Fruit Box Fridays’, our team was able to jump on an opportunity to make better use of some fruit that was typically left on farms, but was definitely worth saving.
The Banana Trial: The Back Story
On a routine visit to one of The Fruit Box Group’s banana growers, our team learned about the vast amount of bananas that typically weren’t able to make it off farms. These bananas were left behind because they happened to be single bananas (rather than in a bunch), or were deemed too wonky or small. Still, this was delicious, nutritious, high-quality fruit that we knew could be purchased for better use.
So, we decided to purchase just over 3000 bananas for ten of our local Victorian school partners, who welcomed our donations with open arms. Not only did our purchase contribute some extra money back into local farming communities and prevent valuable food from being ploughed back into the ground, it also provided children with a delicious, nutritious snack to enjoy eating together, during our one-month pilot program. We also created simple posters to go out into classrooms which explained the back story of these bananas, highlighting that while lots of food currently goes to waste on farms, it really doesn’t have to.
What did we hear about Fruit Box Fridays?
We were happy to hear that, in some classrooms, Fruit Box Fridays helped to spark new and important conversations about the issue of on-farm waste occurring right at our doorstep.
“It was very useful to inform students about the purpose behind [Fruit Box Fridays]. We have a number of students who are beginning to ask questions and be curious about the environment and sustainability, so they really enjoyed having fruit not go to waste.”
Teacher based in Sunshine, Victoria
The program also filled an important gap in school food programs:
“Having [Fruit Box Fridays] has been amazing for my classroom… they really look forward to getting the delivery every week. For some of my students, they don’t get many opportunities to have healthy, fresh fruit and this program has helped to bring in some positive eating habits within my class.”
Teacher based in Werribee, Victoria
“Just wanted to say a huge thank you to [The One Box] team for your ongoing support to our school. Access to fresh and healthy foods is a real challenge for our community… Programs like these ensure that kids are getting access and education to much needed healthy foods. We are very grateful for what [The One Box] team have done for our community.”
Wellbeing Coordinator based in Sunshine West, Victoria
We also surveyed participating teachers and other school staff and heard overwhelmingly positive feedback from the 56 different survey respondents:
- 100% rated the quality of the donated surplus bananas as ‘Good’ or ‘Very Good’ – pretty great for food that we bought to give a second chance!
- Most teachers and staff (87%) reported that during the trial period, most (~75%) or all (~100%) of their students displayed an improved attitude towards healthy food. 84% of those surveyed also said that most or all students appeared to show an improved readiness for learning, and 83% observed improved productivity in classwork among students
- Importantly, 99% agreed or strongly agreed that Fruit Box Fridays did not take away too much time from other educational priorities in the classroom; nor did it disrupt classroom routines (97% agreed or strongly agreed)
Our team was pleased to hear of recent announcements  that further government funding will be directed towards expanding food programs in schools. In light of this, extensive consideration was given to continuing this program in 2020. To prevent duplication of school food programs, we feel that our resources will be better directed towards focusing on our core program of The One Box, which is able to provide a weekly, year-long supply of fresh food to families experiencing financial hardship.
Redirecting high-quality, surplus food is a proven and impactful way of treading a little lighter on the planet  while putting more money into the back pockets of our farmers. We are proud to have proved that a program like ours can work efficiently and affordably in Australia.
The One Box is always open to working with new partners who, like us, recognise the huge potential to make a difference within the Australian fresh produce space. If you would like to chat about working together, or support our social food initiatives in other exciting and meaningful ways, contact us to start a conversation.
 School food program announcements:
 Project Drawdown – Food – Reduced Food Waste [Internet]. Project Drawdown. 2019 [cited 19 November 2019]. Available from: https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/food/reduced-food-waste
Written by Vivien Yii, Research Coordinator at The Fruit Box Group