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CBE alumnus and Student Bites founder Kirk Fonseca (second from left) with Buff and Lisa from Ozharvest, and Victoria Herbert, Student Bites coordinator.

Alumni story: Kirk Fonseca & Student Bites

13 April 2016

Like many university students, Kirk Fonseca took on a part-time job in retail to help him pay the bills while he completed his MBA here at ANU.

After a couple of months working as a supervisor at Woolworths, he was dismayed to see how much good food was being dumped, due to it being excess to requirements.

Kirk knew that many of his fellow students sometimes found it difficult to afford fresh, good quality food, and thought it would make sense to redistribute the surplus food to students. However, the first step was to gain approval from management at Woolworths to get access to the surplus stock.

“When I started working at Woolworths in May 2013, I was able to analyse their operations at the ground-level and saw the volume of good food that was going to waste daily, weekly and monthly. Through independent research and a number of conversations with staff across stores, I also discovered that many supermarkets don’t have time to look into food rescue as they’re mainly focusing on increasing sales, meeting regulations and so on.’’

Kirk and his MBA classmates Hersh Oberoi, Faraz Junaidi and Mohammad Ammad set about building a link between the supermarkets and those who could benefit from the excess food.

‘’We decided to test the waters and conducted a survey at ANU to understand how students felt about free groceries. The results revealed that there was an alarming number of domestic and international students who did not have sufficient time or money to buy nutritious food.’’

Through an in-class project, they laid the foundations for what would become Student Bites, a student run not-for-profit that aims to reduce food waste from supermarkets in Canberra and provide this food to university students, free of cost.

Kirk says his business background, combined with his study at the ANU College of Business and Economics and input from his classmates helped him develop a business case that he then presented to Woolworth’s senior management in Canberra, in order to secure their approval to redistribute excess food from their Canberra supermarkets.

“I did this subject called Integrated Business Project or IBP A, it helps you improve and fine-tune your business case and pitch it to any corporate” he said.

In their business case, the Student Bites team were able to identify a cost-saving for Woolworths from a reduction in landfill costs. They also highlighted the mitigation of donation risks through the Civil Liabilities Amendment Act, meaning Woolworths would be protected from any liability from the excess food rescued from their stores.

The business case received buy-in from Woolworths’ management, who realised that the food rescue model the Student Bites team proposed was a win-win for everyone.

Student Bites have now partnered with OzHarvest Canberra, who continue to manage the logistics and legal side of things, rescuing food from Woolworth’s supermarkets in Canberra. To date, the partnership has delivered over 36,000 meals to over 2100 University students at ANU and has successfully expanded to the University of Canberra, as well as servicing a number of charities in the ACT.

After graduating from ANU in 2014, Kirk has now taken the next step in his career and is working as a Consultant at Rubik3, a Canberra-based Indigenous consulting firm that provides financial management, project management, business advisory services and ICT sustainability services to organisations in government, private and not-for-profit sectors.

He remains involved with Student Bites, but has handed over the day-to-day operations role to Victoria Herbert, a second-year Sustainability student at ANU.

“We need passionate students like Victoria, because we need the presence of self-motivated and dedicated students on the team, people on the ground who put in the time and effort to grow the Student Bites program. Core to Student Bites’ succession plan is partnering with students associations at the University-level,” he said.

While Student Bites co-founder and fellow MBA alumnus Hersh has decided to step back for now to focus on his career at a Sydney-based financial service, the other co-founder Faraz Junaidi is still very much involved in the project.

“Faraz is working with the Queensland Department of Health but co-ordinates certain activities remotely, while exploring opportunities to expand the Student Bites program to universities in Queensland.

“We want to expand Student Bites to other Universities in Australia, but I think it’s about taking it step by step, learning from our current operations, constantly tweaking, innovating and improving our program delivery in Canberra first.’’

For more information on Student Bites, see their website www.studentbites.org or the group’s Facebook page.

Updated:   9 March 2017 / Responsible Officer:  Dean, Business & Economics / Page Contact:  College Web Team