SunnyCoast Eats by OzHarvest

Image source: Contributed

Identifying ways to address food insecurity and minimise food waste has been a lifelong passion for the Sunshine Coast’s Citizen of the Year. Matt Golinski finds out what Michele Lipner is cooking up next!

Most of us go food shopping each week and buy the ingredients we know we’ll use to make breakfast, fill school lunch boxes or for the staple dinners we know how to prepare and that won’t get rejected by the fussier members of the family.

But for an ever-increasing number of Australians who are struggling to keep up with creeping mortgage rates and crippling energy bills and fuel costs, the luxury of choosing what they put on the table is a thing of the past.

It’s estimated that in the past 12 months over two million households in Australia went hungry due to a lack of funds, sometimes skipping meals or going whole days without eating. 

Demand for food relief is now higher than ever. In 2019, Foodbank estimated that 15% of Australians experiencing food insecurity were accessing food relief at least once a week. At the peak of the pandemic, that figured jumped to an alarming 31% – one in three households!

Food rescue charities have been overwhelmed over the past few years by people needing assistance just to ensure their kids don’t go to school or to bed hungry.

OzHarvest was born in 2004 with a vision to not only help feed those in need, but also to address the enormous issue of food waste in this country.

It’s a serious matter with food waste costing the Australian economy approximately $36.6 billion per year, with approximately 7.6 million tonnes of quality food finding its way to landfill.

Concerned by this growing trend, a small group of local volunteers, led by Michele Lipner, took on the challenge of building a network within their own community to tackle these issues, launching OzHarvest Sunshine Coast and Gympie in 2014.

They currently partner with food suppliers and recipients as far north as Gympie, down the coast to Caloundra and into the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Food suppliers include local farmers markets, major supermarkets (including their national partner Woolworths), BP service stations, independent fruit and vegetable markets, local producers/farmers, bakeries, butchers and schools.

Nine years later, with the help of over 100 volunteers, they support 47 recipient organisations including schools, charities, community organisations and churches.

Since commencing operations, OzHarvest Sunshine Coast & Gympie has collected and redistributed approximately 800,000 kg of food – the equivalent of 2.2+ million meals. 

Each month, this translates into anywhere from 15,000 – 18,000 kg of food being rescued and redistributed to their recipient agencies.

Michele Lipner, founding member and Coordinator of the local chapter, has been a driving force behind its success and growth for over close to a decade. 

Her passion and dedication to her community’s welfare, the environment, and for education around food waste saw her awarded Sunshine Coast Citizen of the Year in January.

In 2017, Michele identified a need for some sort of resource to help recipients of the food boxes they were being delivered get the most out of them –
she could see that not everyone had the knowledge and experience to literally Ready, Steady, Cook a random bunch of provisions into a coherent meal, and that not everyone had seen a fennel bulb or cooked an eggplant before.

Over six years, she brought together a small group of dedicated local community members and volunteers with different skills to drive the development of a product that would be much more than a compilation of recipes. 

Sunshine Coast University Bachelor of Dietetics and Bachelor of Nutrition students assisted with needs assessment, design and recipe testing, and everything from the photography, graphic design, even the hand-made ceramics used for styling recipes were donated to turn her dream into a reality.

The result is SunnyCoast Eats, a 100-page collection of useful information about various ingredients that an OzHarvest recipient may receive or that you might find in the bottom of your fridge. Sorted alphabetically by ingredients, there’s also basic nutritional information and advice on how to store and cook them. 

It also contains tips on how to reduce food waste at home; a problem that accounts for more than a third of the country’s food waste.

Of an initial print run of around 2,000 books, half of the books will be sold at a very reasonable price to cover the cost of production and to fund the donation of the rest to those who need it most in a ‘buy one, gift one’ philosophy.

SunnyCoast Eats can be purchased online or direct from OzHarvest Sunshine Coast with proceeds going back into OzHarvest Sunshine Coast & Gympie to support its operations.

With 53 easy-to-make and budget friendly recipes that champion local ingredients along with tips on kitchen basics, food swaps and reducing food waste at home; it’s sure to be a much-loved go-to guide, whether you are a kitchen novice or pro.

SunnyCoast Eats is a labour of love, and the result of hundreds of dedicated hours by local OzHarvest volunteers and community members passionate about food, reducing food waste and helping feed people in need. We can all raise a fork to that!


SunnyCoast Eats is now available from the OzHarvest Sunshine Coast office in Coolum or look for the friendly yellow shirted volunteers at Noosa Farmers’ Market most Sundays.

To find out more phone 0431 094 136 or email [email protected]

Order online!

Price: $30 incl postage.


We’ve invited more local change-makers and local legends to deliver a thought-provoking and sense-stirring experience in The Doonan’s sprawling gardens and dining spaces for  Podcast & Pinot as part of The Curated Plate.

As we celebrate homegrown food and heartfelt hospitality in the newly opened multi-purpose venue, MC and podcaster John Caruso will head a panel of fascinating guest speakers including:

  • International DJ Superstar and creator of ARIA Chart topper Good Girl GoneDÉ SAINT
  • Actor and radio star Sam Coward
  • OzHarvest Sunshine Coast founder and coordinator, co-author and creator of SunnyCoast Eats and Sunshine Coast’s Citizen of the Year Michele Lipner
  • Rob Comiskey, Director of Comiskey Group, the family-owned development company behind The Doonan as well as multi-award-winning venues including Eatons Hill Hotel and Sandstone Point Hotel.

Indulge in a specially-designed menu by Head Chef Wayd Bailey featuring local produce and matched with the finest drops of Pinot, from sparkling wines to pinot gris and our favourite, pinot noir. 

The event will raise much-needed funds to support OzHarvest’s vital work in rescuing food waste to help feed our community in need.

Last year’s event was a sell-out success and this year’s promises to be even more special with a few surprises in store!

As we embark on this sensory adventure during the winter months, we’ll find connection at the root of every experience – to the food we put in our bodies, the environments where it flourishes and the communities who produce and prepare it. 

Find out more and book your seat HERE

Visit for program announcements and ticketing. 

About the Author /

[email protected]

Matt Golinski is a highly regarded chef with a passion for simple, produce-driven cuisine based on seasonal, fresh local ingredients. He is an active member of the Slow Food movement, a champion of artisan producers and a generous mentor to keen young chefs. He is the Food and Culinary Tourism Ambassador for the Gympie region; Ambassador and Advisory Executive Chef for Peppers Noosa; and a festival favourite.

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