22 Jun New service reduces food waste and feeds people for free
Growing up, Rebekah Bell used to invite people in need home with her.
Now she’s created On The House – a service that collects surplus food from organisations around New Plymouth and distributes it out to the community for free.
This week was National Volunteer Week and Bell said On The House, which is run purely by a group of around 25 volunteers, wouldn’t survive without them.
“There’s a different energy when you’re a volunteer. You’re doing it because you really want to do it, you’re not doing it because you’re going to get a wage and you have to.
“Our volunteers have a real diversity of culture and age which we really love. Some of these people that volunteer have also been socially isolated or maybe retired but still have all these skills and energy and want to be active.”
On The House only started seven months ago and Bell can’t believe how quickly the organisation is growing.
“It’s growing like topsy, I can hardly keep up with it to be quite honest.
“It’s going from strength to strength every week, suppliers are growing, the number of people coming to access the food is growing, we’re averaging 40 to 50 people now.”
On The House currently has 19 suppliers from New Plymouth’s hospitality industry, including The Green Door Cafe, Columbus Coffee, and Novotel Hotel.
“We got three new suppliers in a week and they’re just coming on board all the time.
“All our suppliers are ready to go to more days but we need to staff that and it needs to be sustainable.
“We want to be up to three days a week by the end of the year.”
Bell said it was satisfying for suppliers to see their food not go to waste.
“They craft this amazing food and it goes in the bin or to the pigs so we’ve got to start thinking differently about our food waste and why not come and enjoy it? Take that stigma away that it has to be someone who’s looking to go to food bank or got kids.
“Our food resources and suppliers love it because it’s the completion of a circle for all the work they put into the food.”
Bell emphasises the food they distribute is available to everyone, you don’t have to be homeless or below a certain wage. They want to take the stigma of a food bank away.
“It’s about reducing food waste as well so there are two arms going on, people who are in a depth of need and the other part is getting it out there to anybody.
“We’ve broken that barrier around trust and understanding. They know we’re not here for any other agenda than what we present.
“It’s such a feel good thing, it sounds really cheesy, but it is.”