Rush to distribute perishable food as foodbanks report soaring demand

Campbell Organic Apple Orchard owners Bruce and Jillian Campbell and son Hamish get ready to deliver 500 kilograms of apples after lockdown stopped them selling at the Lyttleton Farmers Market.
STACY SQUIRES/Stuff
Campbell Organic Apple Orchard owners Bruce and Jillian Campbell and son Hamish get ready to deliver 500 kilograms of apples after lockdown stopped them selling at the Lyttleton Farmers Market.

With half a tonne of organic apples destined for a farmers market this weekend the pressure was on for a local orchardist to come up with a new way to get their produce to customers.

Like many smaller food producers during the current Covid-19 lockdown, Campbell Organic Orchard faced throwing away the 500 kilograms of produce it usually sold at the weekly Lyttelton Farmers Market.

The orchard was set up on 4 hectares in Yaldhurst in 2006 by Bruce and Jillian Campbell and was the first organic apple orchard in Canterbury.

While half of their produce was destined for the export market, the farmers’ market has remained vital to their bottom line.

READ MORE:
* Thousands of daffodils go to waste as Delta deals fatal blow to annual Cancer Society fundraiser
* Riverside Market's lockdown food delivery service still in high demand
* Taranaki backyard food production set to expand as Covid-19 alert levels drop

But last week’s lockdown upset the apple cart, forcing the orchard to find a new way to get to customers.

Campbell took to community pages on Facebook to offer free delivery around wider Yaldhurst and a discounted rate of $5 per kilogram.

The response was so overwhelming the orchard had to close orders this week.

Campbell said part of the reason they offered the delivery service was to support the local community.

“A lot of people are doing it quite tough.”

Campbell said the pandemic had helped people discover what produce was on their doorstep, and many were surprised to learn an apple orchard was so close to the city.

But while Campbell had rescued his produce others around New Zealand were not faring as well.

Former Westport mayor turned greengrocer Pat O’Dea expected to lose about $25,000 worth of food during lockdown.

Hamish Campbell says setting up a free delivery service for the orchard’s apples is a way of giving back to the community.
STACY SQUIRES/Stuff
Hamish Campbell says setting up a free delivery service for the orchard’s apples is a way of giving back to the community.

His business was classified non-essential, so while unable to open O’Dea and his staff had been “flat out” making up free mixed fruit and veggie bags for anyone who wanted them.

During last year's lockdown, members of the Salvation Army helped package and distribute $25,000 of produce that would have otherwise rotted. O’Dea said it was not worthwhile this time round given the risk of the highly infectious Delta variant.

He questioned why greengrocers were not allowed to operate under level 4, particularly as the Government had been encouraging the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Following the devastating flooding in Westport last month, O’Dea said a lot of families had taken “a hell of a hammering” and he hoped the free produce would help those in need.

“I’m not being extra nice, it’s just seeing some good produce not being wasted.”

The Campbells are busy redistributing organic apples that would otherwise perish during lockdown.
STACY SQUIRES/Stuff
The Campbells are busy redistributing organic apples that would otherwise perish during lockdown.

The need to redistribute produce that would otherwise be wasted has been highlighted by foodbanks experiencing an increase in demand as lockdown continues.

Foodbank Canterbury chief executive John Milligan said they worked with 157 charities in Christchurch and moved the equivalent of 9000 to 10,000 meals a day.

Demand had increased exponentially, with many food producers calling to donate surplus food, he said.

He normally received five or six calls a day from people needing food, but since lockdown began that increased to 40 calls in a single morning.

Satisfy Food Rescue is still operating during lockdown and staff say surplus food from cafes has helped keep up the supply for those in need during lockdown.
Satisfy Food Rescue
Satisfy Food Rescue is still operating during lockdown and staff say surplus food from cafes has helped keep up the supply for those in need during lockdown.

Satisfy Food Rescue distribution coordinator Michelle Campbell said more people were seeking food parcels, particularly in the Hurunui district.

The Kaiapoi-based organisation was working with Kairos Food Rescue and Free Store and other charities to collect food from cancelled functions.

“We encourage any businesses, if they have food that needs a home, to donate.”

Kairos director Stuart Ennor said its free store was unable to operate under alert level 4, but operations at the warehouse continued four days a week to sort and distribute food to 19 foodbanks.

He had noted an increase in demand from schools helping parents provide their children with lunch.

Most surplus food usually came from supermarkets, but that was not the case during lockdown.

People were buying dented and damaged products that were normally left on the shelf, he said.

Kairos usually collected food from 20 to 30 cafés and restaurants in Christchurch, but supply was limited while businesses were closed, and it was buying food from supermarkets to ensure there was enough for those in need.

“It’s sad, but it's nice to be in a position where we can help.”

Kairos Food Rescue has continued to operate from its warehouse, helping distribute food to those in need during lockdown.
Kairos Food Rescue
Kairos Food Rescue has continued to operate from its warehouse, helping distribute food to those in need during lockdown.