Food rescue groups divert 24 million meals from waste to plate around the country – Stuff.co.nz

In the past year, food rescue groups nationwide have diverted more than 8.6 million kilograms of food from going to waste, instead getting them to families in need.
A survey by Aotearoa Food Rescue Alliance (AFRA), a collaboration between food rescue charities around the country, has shown a 90 per cent increase in demand on the year before, pre-Covid-19 – the equivalent of 24,776,731 meals
In New Zealand, one in five children does not have regular, consistent access to food, and the Delta variant has brought fear and isolation for many families who were already at risk, or doing it tough.
AFRA spokesperson and former Green MP Gareth Hughes said it was clear food rescue played an important role in responding to the challenge of Covid-19.
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“It is incredible the volume of food being rescued and passed on,” he said. “It’s a real testament to the hard work of food rescue groups and hundreds of volunteers across New Zealand.”
Financial support from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) during the first lockdown allowed food rescue groups to increase capacity by investing in larger warehouses, chillers, freezers and vehicles.
AFRA chair Matt Dagger, also general manager of Wellington food rescue group Kaibosh, said local food rescue groups were best placed to act when demand for food increased.
“They’re already at the centre of communities, and they become hubs of support.”
Officially launched in March, AFRA provided support for food rescue groups nationwide in the form of education on “best practice” for food handling and storage, and advocacy to the Government on their behalf.
Just Zilch director Rebecca Culver said it was great to have a connection with other organisations which she could go to for advice or support.
Just Zilch operates a free store in Palmerston North, “solving two problems at once” by taking food that would otherwise have gone to waste and making it available to people who needed it.
Unlike other sectors, food rescue groups had no professional body supporting them, so the formalisation of a food rescue alliance just made sense – particularly as demand grew.
“We would normally give two tonnes a day through our free store and to various community groups. Now, we’re giving two tonnes just to those community groups,” Culver said.
Hughes said: “Thanks to financial support from the Ministry of Social Development over the first lockdown, food rescue groups have increased their capacity and invested in larger warehouses, chillers, freezers and vehicles to rescue good food that would otherwise be wasted and get it to people who need it.
“Food rescue accepts and passes on food at no cost and the ‘Good Samaritan Clause’ in the New Zealand Food Act protects businesses who donate food to charity.”
The food alliance was working with MSD to secure more funding, and was currently waiting to hear whether any further Food Secure Communities Funding might be made available.
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