Not wasted: Rescuing Bay food

John Paine, Ursula Edwards and Clare Worden sorting food into boxes. Photo: Bruce Barnard.

At first it was 24 tonnes, last year it was 80 tonnes – but now Good Neighbour’s Food Rescue is distributing more than 150 tonnes of food, which would otherwise go to waste, to Bay of Plenty charities.

The Food Rescue concept is simple – as many as 60 volunteers collect food from a variety of sources including supermarkets, cafes, markets and manufacturers that is good enough to eat, but not to sell, to redistribute to Bay charities for good use.

“We’re averaging between 2.5 tonnes to three tonnes a week,” says Good Neighbour Food Rescue manager John Paine.

Currently, John says volunteers collect food from four main supermarkets in Tauranga, which is distributed to charities including Tauranga Women’s Refuge, Homes of Hope, Salvation Army, Katikati Maori Wardens, Maketu Health and Social Services and many more.

“We’ve got 30 charities picking up now in the Bay and Tauranga, including Maketu and Katikati. Our goal is to empty the shed [on Spring St] every day.”

In the beginning, John says Food Rescue was collecting food just two days a week. Now it has expanded to collection five days a week.

To keep up, Food Rescue is calling for more volunteers to help with food sorting and collection, as well as raising funds for a new chiller truck.

“The existing truck operates every business day until 12pm when all the food is collected and then sorted between 12pm and 1pm when all of the charities come in to collect,” says John.

“Our goal at the moment is to pick up food from more supermarkets operating in the Tauranga area with our existing truck before ultimately expanding to Mount Maunganui and Papamoa.

“To do that we’re going to need a second truck.”

They’re also looking for a new premises, says John. “As we grow, we get more food, so we’re building all sides of the equation at one time.”

Clare Worden signed up for volunteering after spotting a story in The Weekend Sun about Food Rescue in October 2014.

“When I first started I did a bread pick-up from one supermarket, whereas now we’re picking up from four or five supermarkets every single day and it’s not just bread, it’s chilled foods and all sorts.”

The Tauranga woman doesn’t mind giving up a small amount of her time to help sort food at least once a week.

“Nope, not at all. I have a couple of days off a week, so it’s always good to give something back to the community.

“I don’t do without, my kids don’t do without. So it’s nice to make sure we can do something for those who are struggling a little bit.”

Her 79-year-old mother Ursula Edwards comes to visit from the United Kingdom for a few months each year and helps Clare with sorting food. Like mother, like daughter, Ursula believes in sharing a little bit of good in the community too.

“Mum comes from a social work background in the UK. She brought us up thinking the same thing,” says Clare. “She’s very, very active. She leaps in and out of the van like she’s 30. It keeps her young.”

Clare says Food Rescue does a brilliant job in not letting food go to waste.

“At one point it obviously went to the pigs or to landfill. So to save that from landfill is just amazing.”

To volunteer, visit www.goodneighbour.co.nz and fill in a volunteer form.