Taranaki food charity introduces lottery system


A charity that redistributes surplus food to those in need says demand is so great it has had to introduce a lottery system to cut waiting times and reduce simmering tensions in the queue.

Started in 2017, New Plymouth-based food charity On The House rescues unwanted edibles and gives them away. The offerings come from cafes, bakeries, restaurants and more recently, supermarkets.

Until it was diverted to the food charity, the food was destined for the landfill or pig swill.

Coordinator Serena Brown says demand has skyrocketed since the supermarkets came on board with the food rescue.

“We started seeing a lot more people lining up and starting to line up really early at about 3.30pm and we don’t open here until 5pm.

“So, we were quite concerned about people waiting for such an extended period of time especially coming into winter with the rain and the cold.

“We didn’t want people getting sick and having to wait outside just so that they’d be first in line basically.”

To get round this concern, On The House has started a lottery system where people draw lots (using coloured iceblock sticks) to get into the pop-up store.

“Nobody has to turn up early, everybody’s got the same chance of getting in first, second or third and it’s become quite a game and I think people are having fun with it,” Brown says.

The stores have a range of food from eggs, dairy, frozen meat and fresh vegetables, to dry goods and bakery treats.

Typically there are about 100 customers. They may take anything they like within certain limits.

Anything left over on the night is passed on to community groups who redistribute it through their networks.

Trustee Terry Hancock said On The House caters for a hidden need.

“There’s a lot of isolated, marginalised people in our community …who people don’t see, so we see them every week.”

In this way the service provides a place where people can meet and talk – volunteers and people who use the service alike.

Their reasons for needing the service are many. One lives alone, is not working following an injury and needs help to make ends meet.

“I just so appreciate it, … you can stock your food up and pay your bills. It’s huge,” a customer says.

Another customer is happy to help reduce food waste.

“If you are down on your luck and you need food and extra help that’s great and if you don’t but you want to support stuff not going to landfill, not going into the bin or to the pigs that’s great too.”

She shops on behalf of friends – it’s not something they would ever think of doing, she says.

After “just about” paying her accommodation costs, a beneficiary says she needs the service as the benefit “doesn’t cover anything else.”

Catching up with the volunteers is a highlight of her week, she says.

A volunteer says she enjoys mixing with people, hearing their stories and seeing all the food saved.


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News category: New Zealand.

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