Food Waste Warriors

There are many individuals, organisations and businesses around New Zealand doing great work to reduce food waste. Some collect surplus food and supply it to those who need it, while others are creating unique products from food that would have otherwise been wasted.

These are some of New Zealand’s Food Waste Warriors:

Angie Warren-Clark – Labour MP

Labour MP Angie Warren-Clark is the force behind the Environment Select Committee briefing into food waste that will happen in late 2018.

The Papamoa local knows first-hand about how much food is wasted in New Zealand. She first encountered the problem when she was managing a women’s refuge in Tauranga and food rescue group Good Neighbour started supplying them with rescued food.

The food waste briefing aims to gather information around the amount of food waste in New Zealand and what is already being done to combat it.

“This is the beginning of the conversation around food waste in this country, and it is the beginning of the formulation of what the problem is and what the solutions may look like,” said Warren-Clark.

“Ultimately, I hope this will allow us to create a plan so that we can reach the United Nations Sustainability Goal 12.3, which aims to halve per capita global food waste at the production, retail and consumer levels by 2030. We need solutions that are going to encompass everything from the farm gate to the fridge door.”

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Di Celliers – Community Fruit Harvesting

Community Fruit Harvesting picks, preserves and distributes fruit and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste.

This not-for-profit group gives fruit and preserves to charities, food banks, schools, community groups and families in need.

Community Fruit Harvesting, which started in 2011, has a volunteer network with over 300 pickers, 70 preservers and 10 coordinators in Auckland alone. The concept has spread around the country to many other regions, with branches set up in places from Hamilton to Dunedin.

In 2015 Community Fruit Harvesting distributed tens of thousands of kilograms of fruit and 7000 jars of produce to 145 different groups in Auckland, as well as sending hundreds of kilograms of citrus fruit to Christchurch.

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Swanie Nelson – Pātaka Kai movement

Swanie Food Waste Warrior

Swanie Nelson, and her husband Terry, are the instigators of the Pātaka Kai Open Street Pantry movement which has popped up in the last six months.

Pātaka Kai, which means storehouse or pantry in te reo Māori, is a place where people can leave food for other people to take for free.

Since the Nelson’s launched their first Pātaka Kai outside their house earlier this year, there are now 96 pantries around New Zealand and another 120 under construction.

An unexpected side effect of the Pātaka Kai project has been an increased awareness of food waste.

The pantries provide a centralised space for people to share excess fruit and vegetables from their gardens, like oranges from the Nelson’s neighbour’s tree that were never harvested before and were just left to fall on the ground and rot.

“Prior to this it wasn’t like I was a food waste champion,” said Swanie. “I had never really stopped to consider implications of food waste in that capacity, until this movement.”

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David Cross – Social Pantry

David Cross social pantry

David Cross started the Social Pantry in June 2015 after seeing his colleagues bring to work bags of vegetables from their gardens that they didn’t know what to do with. This sparked David’s idea to create a “marketplace” on Facebook where people with excess food could connect with others who needed it.

While food banks offer these services, David felt there was a need for an alternative system as many people find it much easier to ask for help from behind a keyboard, than face to face at a food bank. His hunch was right, with the Wellington branch now having  over 3000 members and other branches in Auckland, Hamilton, Hawke’s Bay, Kapiti Coast and Christchurch.

“I think many of our members donate food because the concept just makes sense,” said David.

“Most people wanted to help others but they didn’t know where to start. We have had people clear out their pantries, bake, and even go to the supermarket for the sole purpose of giving it to someone in need. Now there is an easy way for people to actually make a difference in other’s lives.”

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Deborah Manning – KiwiHarvest and Food Share

Deborah Manning KiwiHarvest Food Share

Seeing the need to bridge the gap between businesses throwing away fresh, nutritious food and the food banks and social service agencies in desperate need of it, Deborah Manning established food rescues FoodShare in Dunedin (2012) and KiwiHarvest in Auckland (2014).

Their food rescue vans are on the road up to six days a week collecting surplus food from local food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. The donated food is passed onto local agencies who distribute the food to people in need.

Refrigerated trucks are used to collect and distribute over a tonne of rescued fresh and frozen food including fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, juice, milk and ready-to-eat meals each day.

“I believe, together, we can make a difference and nourish our community,” said Deborah.

“Not just with healthy food for those that are hungry and disadvantaged, and not just by significantly decreasing the volume of organic waste disposed of in our landfill, but by also providing a way for businesses and individual community members to exercise their social responsibility.”

New Zealand has 16 food rescue groups operating around the country.

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Victoria Madison – Revival Food Company

Crackers made from the leftover products of beer? Compost cookies? These are the foods regularly made in Victoria Madison’s kitchen.

Victoria started the Revival Food Company in November 2015, while she was in her final year of her Culinary Arts Degree at the Food Design Institute at Otago Polytechnic.

You will find Victoria each week at the Otago Farmers Market where she sells sweet and savoury baked goods, crackers, cordials, and tonics. But these aren’t ordinary treats, these are things made from by-products of other food, such as the yeast leftovers from beer making.

“I enjoy the challenge of taking what was once considered a waste product or by-product and making it into something that tastes and looks great,” said Victoria.

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Debbie Wilson – Counties Manukau District Health Board

Hospitals in SDebbie Wilson 300outh Auckland have been reducing their food waste thanks to the hard work of Debbie Wilson and the Environmental Advisory Committee.

Wilson, formerly a nurse but now the Sustainability Officer for the Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB), has implemented two main initiatives at the hospitals in the South Auckland area to divert food waste from landfill – donating unused food and establishing worm farms to make fertilizer.

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