Nelson Environment Centre turns 'ugly' food into valuable meals for needy
Food destined for the rubbish bin will soon be rescued and sent off to a new home.
On April 3, volunteers for the Nelson Environment Centre's new Food Rescue Service will visit the central city Countdown supermarket to pick up unwanted and surplus food to redistribute to charity organisations and groups.
Fruit, vegetables, bread, meat and dairy described as being "good enough to eat but not good enough to sell" is recycled and given to those in need, says NEC development manager Ruth Seabright.
The idea is supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, produce growers and market wholesalers agree for volunteers to pick up surplus or "ugly" food.
That food is sorted, logged and packaged into quantities for the various groups and charity organisations who sign up for the programme. A volunteer driver and crew then drop it off.
Seabright said a $20,000 donation from the Lotteries Commission and $25,000 from a member of the public has allowed NEC to buy a temperature-controlled van and build a cool room in their Vanguard St building.
Some have also donated items such as scales and fruit and vegetable crates, as well as given cash donations.
She said it was overwhelming to receive so much support for the not-for-profit enterprise, but NEC was still waiting on other funding and is in need of volunteers to kick start the project.
"We've had really positive responses from people who have heard the project is happening."
Victory and Tahunanui Community centres, Loaves and Fishers and St Vincent de Paul, a local school and smaller groups have already signed up to receive the food deliveries.
"I've got a growing list but [we're] more than happy for other groups," Seabright said. "Groups that want to take food that's cooking grade and be prepared to cook and freeze it. We're really happy to see those groups that might have a use for the food."
As the former Waikato Environment Centre general manager, Seabright has used her experience of establishing and running a successful food rescue service, Kaivolution, to bring the concept to Nelson.
However, she said bringing the concept to the South Island had come with challenges.
"To be honest with you, it's a little bit harder to get funding I think in the South Island ... I think there are perceptions that Nelson is quite wealthy and actually there are people in need here as well."
Seabright said the Nelson Environment Centre had piloted a similar programme last year with Nelson and Richmond supermarkets Fresh Choice. After success in the region the Nelson Food Rescue Service is set to be a formal upscale of the concept.
Anyone interested in donating goods, money or volunteer time to the Nelson Environment Centre's Food Rescue Service can contact the shop on 03 545 9176 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.