Fair Food to the rescue
Addressing hunger, tackling food waste in West Auckland
There’s a modern-day Robin Hood operating in West Auckland on a daily basis. The only thing is, it’s not the rich he is stealing from, rather, the rubbish – saving fresh food from ending up in the landfill and redistributing it to people who need it.
“We are not a substitute for a rubbish truck or a compost heap. We are about feeding people who need it, with food that would otherwise go to waste,” says Ian Myhill, the man behind the wheel of the Fair Food truck.
Fair Food is a West Auckland based charity working with supermarkets to address hunger and reduce food waste in one fell swoop. The organisation began redistributing food in West Auckland in 2012, with Ian coming on board as their only paid employee five months ago.
They operate a simple system, moving food from donors to recipients in the space of mere hours.
Ian starts his day with visits to seven Countdown supermarkets and Farro Fresh. He collects food they have put aside for redistribution – produce that is no longer quite at its best, day-old bread, expired goods and sometimes items with damaged packaging. Each week they also collect from Commonsense Organics, Best Ugly Bagels and Panetone Bakery.
In the back of his truck he sorts through the bounty which usually amounts to about 500kg of food a day. Ian sifts through the produce to check for quality, with anything that is not fit for human consumption becoming food for animals at a West Auckland farm.
With his truck stocked and sorted, it’s time to distribute to the community groups scheduled for that day’s delivery. Fair Food delivers to between six and eight recipients a day, with each group receiving a delivery once a week, meaning nearly 40 organisations are benefitting each week from this service.
So where is the food going? The recipients vary – some are food banks, others are religious centres or educational facilities – but all are in West Auckland and all have hungry tummies to feed.
Ian has learned the best needs for each group, knowing who will make use of the salad ingredients and who is more likely to appreciate the boxes of broccoli. Each organisation receives about 40kgs of food – banana boxes of fruit, vegetables and loaves of bread.
For Ian, delivering the food is the best part of his job.
“The first thing I noticed in my first week was that everyone says thanks.”
On the day I spent with Fair Food, Rose, a regular, was there to greet Ian as the truck pulled up at their food bank in Henderson. She told me how thankful they were to receive the food and also made sure nothing went to waste at their end by turning any excess produce into pickles and jams, with any inedible waste like banana skins being composted.
Plans to grow
Operating this on-the-road distribution system is efficient as they’re not double handling goods by taking them in and out of a storage facility, and the same-day deliveries ensures the produce is not deteriorating further before it is delivered. However, this system does limit the amount of food they are able to rescue.
Fair Food aims to one day add a refrigerated truck to their suite which would allow them to double the capacity of both the amount of food they can collect and the community groups they can distribute it to.
They would also like to extend the number of supermarkets they are working with, but it can be challenging in the first instance to get them to agree to pass on food they deem not fit for sale.
“In the past, food that was taken off the shelf for cosmetic reasons or because it had passed its best before date, was perceived as rubbish. It’s about changing attitudes,” said Ian.
“I tell them, ‘if you’d still eat it, don’t throw it in in the bin, put it in the box for Fair Food.’”
A photo posted by Fair Food (@fairfoodnz) on
Ian gets a warm welcome each morning at the supermarkets he regularly visits on his collection routes as they see value in what Fair Food is doing, knowing they are helping to feed their community.
“We’re collecting from an area and feeding that same area. It’s creating a community. The supermarkets like to know where their food is going and who it is helping.”
Fair Food is one of nine food rescue organisations operating in New Zealand.