17 Apr 2015

Starting a Food Revolution!

From New Zealand Society, 2:20 pm on 17 April 2015

weighing the food
All the food is weighed and divided as evenly as possible between recipient charities

“It’s definitely been a growing project… we’ve worked out that we’ve hit ten tonnes of food with our collection…all in six months!”

– Simon Gascoigne, Kaivolution’s van driver and co-ordinator.

Kaivolution’s ethos is simple: ensuring good edible food doesn’t reach the tip before someone else could benefit from it. And in the space of six short months, the food rescue service is walking the talk. As of April 2015 it has saved 10 tonnes of food from going to the landfill, being ploughed back into farms or eaten by livestock. Instead, it has redistributed most of it to local charities and social agencies.

Kaivolution is modeled on the successful Wellington food rescue programme Kaibosh, and is run under the umbrella of the Waikato Environment Centre. Manager Ruth Seabright says it all started with a presentation by Kaibosh. “Three Hamilton funders were at the conference in Wellington and they all came back, called a community meeting and they presented the idea… and everybody overwhelmingly said yes, we want something like this.” A feasibility study was conducted shortly thereafter.

With a need highlighted and funders such as WEL Energy Trust and the Tindall Foundation ready to help, the rest as they say is history, and Kaivolution was born. “And here we are,” says Ruth. “Ten tonnes of food later! It exceeds my every expectation and I am just humbled by that response, it’s an incredible amount of food… in a short space of time.”

So, how does it work?

All with a telephone call. Simon Gascoigne is the service’s coordinator and once he’s been alerted to a prospective food pick-up from one of the 10 or so core donors, he becomes a man on a mission. Jumping in a refrigerated van, he heads out across Hamilton to collect donations. The fact the van is refrigerated is an integral part of the operation; it means Kaivolution can target fresh produce, rather than traditional tinned and dry goods.

Gus Tissink is the general manager of the Hamilton branch of food wholesaler and distributor Bidvest Fresh. He says the donor relationship that’s been established with Kaivolution is a good fit for both parties, and has been a supporter of the service ever since he took part in the feasibility study. “For us it’s usually a product our customer wouldn’t accept but still perfectly good, so it needs to be used very quickly and Kaivolution has demonstrated on a number of occasions that their turnaround is actually really quick. So they’re able to collect the product, sort it and get it to their customer base, which works for us, it’s great.”

Gus says he regularly sees food that is coming up to its sell-by date, is surplus to requirements or just outside normal specifications – but he doesn’t want to see it go to waste. That’s where Kaivolution steps in.

Top left: Sione Tu’akoi, left, from St Vincent de Paul alongside Simon Gascoigne.  Sione estimates the charity has received and redistributed 1.2 tonnes of food from Kaivolution so far. Top right: Kaivolution driver and coordinator Simon Gascoigne beside that morning’s collection, donated by New World Te Rapa and Bidvest. Bottom left: Trays of bakery goods, alongside 100 kilograms of broccoli. Bottom right: Kaivolution’s refrigerated van.

Once the items are collected, Simon heads back to base where he’s met by a small group of volunteers who help unload the items. They’re quickly sorted, then weighed and finally divided as evenly as possible between recipient charities. It’s then put back in the chiller to await collection the same afternoon.

Food hygiene is of upmost importance. If there’s any doubt about the food that’s been salvaged, it either goes into a large compost bin that’s sent to a community garden once a week, or it’s put into a baking bin. Bananas are a good example – a little bit bruised on the outside, but still perfectly good for a loaf or cake.

Kaivolution has over 20 main recipients of its food boxes – from large agencies such as the Salvation Army to the Hamilton Homeless Trust. And when 2 o’clock rolls around, the final part of the day for Ruth, Simon and the team kicks off – collection time.

weighing and sorting the food
As Simon weighs the produce, volunteer Tara McClaren starts to make up the distribution boxes.

Sione Tu’akoi is the coordinator of St Vincent de Paul’s Good Neighbour Projects and was one of the first recipients of a box full of fruit and vegetables. He helps to feed about 500 people a week and says Kaivolution has meant they are able to put fresh, healthy food on the tables of those who otherwise would not get it. “They have been fantastic. It’s like Christmas every day, I have no idea what Simon might have for me. Sometimes I get one box, sometimes a van full, all sorts,” Sione says with a smile. “I think we’ve taken about 1.2 tons of food from Kaivolution so far.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a little while at St Vincent de Paul and when these guys started up… our prayers were answered.”

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