Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Fair Food dishing up zero waste

Auckland organisation Fair Food’s slogan is ‘Feeding People, Not Landfill’ and it’s living up to its zero waste dreams.

The organisation is in the business of food rescue, lending a crucial hand to charities which are feeding people, families and communities in west Auckland.

Fair Food gathers food that might needlessly go into landfill, hand sorts it into fit-to-eat and fit-to-cook boxes and re-distributes them to frontline community groups, to give out directly to those who need it.

They primarily focus on fresh, perishable fruit and vegetables, dairy, protein, bread and eggs – nutrient-dense foods that are also labour and infrastructure intensive to rescue, hand sort, log, store and distribute. They are the only service of its kind in West Auckland tackling food waste.

It received an Auckland Council grant as part of the Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund / Te pūtea Whakamōkito Para me te Auahatanga, which brings ideas to life and supports the target of zero waste to landfill by 2040.

Fair Food’s Executive Director, Veronica Shale says they’d been operating since 2011 from what was basically a mobile service, and the funding helped provide the practical support to bring their dream and need of a central hub to reality.

Now the new warehouse-style premises in Rosebank Road is a humming hub with a small team of staff, and an enthusiastic crew of about 200 volunteers who hand-sort the rescued food and pack into a variety of food boxes for their clients with fairness, quality and nutrition at the forefront. In the first six months of this year, they diverted an impressive 219 tonnes of food from landfill and redistributed it as the equivalent of 625,623 meals. 

Almost everything in the hub, office and start-up kitchen has been rescued from landfill, donated, or picked up from somewhere like the Tipping Point Recycle Shop. They’re composting what they can’t use, recycling with zeal and are almost at zero waste as an overall operation.

Each day, they’re rescuing food from places like Countdown and Farro Fresh and getting calls to come and get what other surplus food suppliers don’t want to send to the dump as well. 

“What we rescued in 2019, we were doing in a month in 2020. We’re growing the scale of what we get in, along with the awareness about food rescue, food repurposing and the alternatives to landfill,” says Fair Foods’ spokesperson, Veronica.

“Fair Food drivers go out and pick up the surplus food once destined for waste in the morning, volunteers hand sort and allocate it to charities in the afternoons and Veronica says charities come in the next day and pick it up.

“We’re working with about 40 charities at the moment and onboarding a further 17. We’re in about 4000 family food parcels each week, so about 15 to 20 thousand people a week are getting food we rescue,” she said.

Spreading the message that there’s no such thing as food waste to businesses takes up a huge part of Fair Food’s time. So does finding sponsors and funding, so things like the Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund grant really help.

“You nearly cry when you get funding in this space. We were so close to closing during the COVID-19 lockdowns last year, but we had to keep going – we couldn’t stop. Both the growing need for food and surplus food heading for landfill couldn’t be ignored,” says Veronica.

“Getting funding to get the infrastructure and tools you need, so people can do their jobs in a safe and efficient way is a game-changer. So, if anyone is thinking of applying for WMIF, I’d strongly encourage it.”

About the Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund

Auckland Council is offering grants of up to $50,000 for projects which bring ideas to life and support the target of zero waste to landfill by 2040.

The next round of funding is open to applications from 1-31 August 2021. WMIF projects are available for community groups, businesses, mana whenua, mataawaka, early childhood centres, schools, tertiary organisations and other community-based organisations operating in the Auckland region.

If you are interested in applying for WMIF funding, further information is available online, including lists of previous award recipients.  

Visit the WMIF application page, email Auckland Waste Fund, or call 09 301 0101 to find out more.

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