MONIQUE FORD / Stuff
Food rescue groups have seen a 90% increase from the year before Covid-19, according to a new survey. (File photo)
In the past year, food relief groups nationwide have diverted more than 8.6 million kilograms of food from wasted food, instead channeling it to families in need.
A survey of Aotearoa Food Rescue Alliance (AFRA), a collaboration between food rescue charities across the country, showed a 90% increase in demand over the previous year, before Covid-19 – the equivalent of 24,776,731 meals
In New Zealand, one in five children does not have regular and consistent access to food, and the Delta variant has caused fear and isolation in many families who were already in danger or in difficulty.
AFRA spokesman and former Green MP Gareth Hughes said it was clear the food rescue was playing an important role in responding to the challenge of Covid-19.
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“It’s amazing the volume of food saved and transmitted,” he said. “This is a real testament to the hard work of food rescue groups and hundreds of volunteers across New Zealand.”
Financial support from the Department of Social Development (MSD) during the first lockdown allowed food rescue groups to increase their capacity by investing in warehouses, coolers, freezers and larger vehicles.
AFRA President Matt Dagger, also chief executive of Wellington’s food rescue group Kaibosh, said local food rescue groups were best placed to act when demand for food increased.
“They are already at the center of communities and are becoming poles of support. “
Officially launched in March, AFRA has provided support to food rescue groups nationwide in the form of education on ‘best practices’ for food handling and storage, and advocacy with the government. on their behalf.
Just Zilch director Rebecca Culver said it was great to have a connection with other organizations she could turn 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 wasted and making it available to those who need it.
Unlike other sectors, food rescue groups had no professional body to support them. Formalizing a food rescue alliance was therefore logical, especially as demand increased.
“We would normally donate two tonnes per 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: “With financial support from the Department of Social Development during the first lockdown, food rescue groups increased their capacity and invested in larger warehouses, coolers, freezers and vehicles to save good food that would be otherwise wasted and get it to people who need it.
“The Food Rescue accepts and distributes food free of charge and the New Zealand Food Law’s ‘Good Samaritan Clause’ protects companies that donate food to charity.”
The food alliance was working with MSD to secure more funding and was currently waiting to see if more funding for food security could be made available.