17 Nov Taranaki organisation celebrate one year of giving food away on the house
In the last year Rebekah Bell saved around 20,000 items of food from being thrown in the trash and gave them to the hungry for free.
On Thursday Bell celebrated her non-profit organisation On The House’s first birthday – a service that collects surplus food from organisations around New Plymouth and distributes it out to the community for free.
Bell and around 30 volunteers gather every week to make sure that the city’s surplus food goes to the hungry instead of going to waste.
“It’s for everyone, you don’t have to be on the benefit, you don’t have to identify as living on the street. There are people struggling in families that are waged. It’s going to be thrown in the bin take advantage of it,” Bell said.
Bell’s main highlight of the non-profit’s first year was that they’d even made it this far.
“It has legs and is really growing. The thing that’s stuck with me is the community of volunteers, the friendships, the support and also the friendship that have developed with the people that are coming.
“That’s all been done through rescuing kai.”
Bell was tight lipped on plans for the future but said they were definitely looking to expand.
She had learnt that the customers enjoyed having choice in what they get to eat.
“A lot of people who are on the margins don’t have choices, or feel like they don’t, so when they come they’re allowed to choose what items of food they want they’re not told what they have to have.
“Just to be given a muffin when you don’t have very much for some people is quite overwhelming. It’s really simple things but they’re really powerful.”
Bell said it had been hard work creating something from nothing but energising too.
“It’s taken shape from the ground up and it’s got wings and it’s just trying to manage that. It’s like the little engine that could.”
Pip Abernethy has been a volunteer for On The House pretty much from the start.
“I saw the story in The Midweek and thought ‘oh that sounds good’.
“It’s perfect for me as a retired teacher.”
Abernethy said Bell’s leadership was one of the main reasons she enjoyed volunteering so much.
“She empowers us to enjoy ourselves and use our initiative. It’s kind of a non-hierarchical leadership here.”
Abernethy was blown away by how grateful customers were.
“They wouldn’t believe that there was no questions asked.”
Caro Schmied from Austria got involved with On The House after a friend brought her along.
“The best thing I think is when you volunteer for such a small business is that you get so much in return. That’s why I love to come here,” the 31-year-old said.
“I used to be self-employed and this is completely different you don’t earn money you earn love.”