14 Oct Q’n’A with Coordinator Anna
On The House is a New Plymouth based food surplus rescue charity. Since early this year, they have a new base at the Community Hall next to the Holy Trinity Church on Henui Street in Strandon, and this is where they welcome community members that have difficulties accessing kai.
With the main drivers of their work being alleviating food poverty and reducing landfill, On The House is a community organisation that shows how solidarity and sustainability go hand in hand.
We interviewed Anna, Coordinator of On The House, and she told us a bit more about their role in the community and their future projects.
How does On The House (OTH) work?
We collect food from cafes, restaurants and food businesses around New Plymouth and set up a free shop on Thursday afternoons where anyone from the public can come and take food. We are inspired by the Free Store Movement, of which there are various versions around the world. The food is fit for purpose, made fresh by the cafes and restaurants, that would otherwise be thrown away. We currently work with 40+ suppliers around the city. Every shift is different – we never know what food we’re going to get.
What is your point of difference at OTH?
OTH deals with food that is ready to be eaten on that day, like salads, soups, fried rice, sushi, cakes and produce. We only donate to the public what we get as a donation from our local suppliers. We don’t often work with pantry goods as the Food Banks do.
Besides that, we are an organisation that asks no questions. We have no judgement, and we open our doors for anyone.
We know that there are many people struggling out there, so we are a welcoming community of volunteers that operate on friendliness and kindness. It’s a complete circle of generosity of spirit. People are welcome to stay and chat, and we do get to know their life stories. And I think that’s why they like coming back to us.
Has it been hard to get where you are now?
It has been a long journey. Like any charitable organisation, growth needs to be incremental and sustainable, so we have been making gradual changes for long-term benefit. Back at the beginning, when Rebekah started On The House, they used to operate from a garage with no running water and no fridge. It has certainly grown in the sense that we have more food, more customers coming and more volunteers, as well as two paid staff members. So yes, we’ve come a long way, and it’s been a lot of mahi to slowly increase our capacity.
How are you addressing food waste?
When we bring on new suppliers, we educate them about food waste and how we offer a service to alleviate that waste. We collect unwanted food that would otherwise go into landfill and distribute it to people in need. It’s a win-win.
After we finish our shifts on Thursdays, we package up leftovers to give to community groups in Bell Block and Marfell. Their community leaders have identified people in need, so they take the rest of the kai and deliver it.
The number of people receiving kai from us adds up; some weeks we service 200+ people.
It’s really cool to know that we are not just servicing one area but we’re also going to other communities. We’re closing the circle and everything gets used, nothing is wasted.
That being said, we just accept any food that is available; we ask our suppliers not to make anything extra. If a volunteer driver comes and they have nothing to pick up, that’s ok, we’re happy for our suppliers because that means that they are doing well. We are just there to alleviate food waste and support them in that way.
What future challenges are you facing?
In the immediate future, we want to open 2 days a week. We feel that there is certainly a need in our community to do that so hopefully, this will happen by the end of the year. My personal long term goal is to have our own space somewhere in New Plymouth, to employ more staff, and bring a supermarket on board to allow us to donate to more established community charities. I used to work for Kai Bosh in Wellington so that’s the model I’d like to emulate here in New Plymouth.
How can the community support you more?
Besides needing a new space, we always welcome donations. Our community is amazing and we have dedicated volunteers coming along every week. In this sense, the community is really supportive, people always want to volunteer with us, and this helps us a lot as 99% of our manpower is volunteers. If you know someone, a neighbour, a family, who is struggling financially or is finding it hard to put food on the table, do tell them about On The House. We welcome new faces and want to expand our reach as best we can for our community.
Source: Sustainable Taranaki / https://www.sustainabletaranaki.org.nz/communitystories