Feeding people in need was the main aim of Northland Food Rescue/Whakaora Kai Taitokerau when the organisation was first seeded in Whangārei in 2016.
But the benefits to the environment – by removing methane-producing food from landfills – quickly became obvious, community development worker Carol Peters said.
The organisation now receives food, which would normally go to landfill, from 35 suppliers, including supermarkets, cafes, growers and packhouses across most of Tai Tokerau.
The food is all weighed, so reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can be calculated.
It is then sorted and listed on a secure online “shop” so distributors – including churches, schools and food banks – can select which kai their clients need.
The scale of the operation means in the last year alone it saved 108 tonnes of food from going to waste, creating 305,000 meals and reducing 121 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
Manager Peter Nicholas said 97 per cent of the donated food is perfectly edible, it just can’t be sold because of imperfections or expiry dates.
“It is a fault of our food supply system; it is usually perfectly edible food that can be distributed to people in need.
“When there is food insecurity in this country, it makes no sense to be chucking food out.”
Food not fit for human consumption is fed to pigs or composted.
But most of the time, the food can be used with a bit of know-how, such as using fruit past its best in baking, Nicholas said.
Northland Food Rescue is run by 155 Whare Āwhina Community Houses, and its distributors include the organisation’s food bank and centre for homeless people, Open Arms.
Another charity which benefits is Soul Food, which makes hot meals for the homeless and hungry once a week, as well as distributing food parcels.
Co-founder Chris Youens said Northland Food Rescue supplied quite a lot of Soul Food’s needs, especially the fresh produce important for a healthy diet.
“We get all sorts of produce through them which helps us make our meals on Monday nights,” he said.
Northland Food Rescue was about to move to a bigger warehouse in Whangārei and was trying to encourage more suppliers to donate unwanted food, Nicholas said.
“There is a lot more that could be rescued. Even after all these years of operating, it is still just the tip of the iceberg.”
Peters believed more produce could be rescued if people volunteered to help pick food or pick up tree fall.
It would help if New Zealand introduced a law to stop the likes of supermarkets from throwing waste food to landfill, as France did in 2016, she said.
But the organisation was also looking at a sweetener for suppliers: Investigating if carbon credits could be given to suppliers for their reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, Peters said.
May 27, 2022