Steve Dunne’s lightbulb moment came sitting at the kitchen table, watching a YouTube video with his 10-year-old son. The video was about global food waste and it demonstrated the amount of food produced each year that ends up in landfill.
“It just shocked us to the core,” Steve says. “The amount of food going to waste when there are starving people out there. My son just looked up and me and said, ‘Dad, we should do something about this’.”
Steve said that he had a lightbulb moment that there could be an untapped food resource in Nelson.
He started by making a few calls, to see if there was food going to waste that wasn’t wanted.
Within a week, he was distributing tonnes of unwanted food out of the back of his van. He was going to need some help.
“I called Abigail, because I just had too much food. Suddenly I’m giving away food out of the back of my van, and Abigail is giving food away out the back of her van.”
A year later, the organisation that Steve Dunne and Abigail Packer started in the back of that van is ‘Kai with Love,’ a Kiwi start-up food charity.
In January, the Richmond Community Church organisation offered them the free use of their centre. Now the organisation has a food share afternoon on a Wednesday when people can collect surplus food once a week. On top of that, they deliver food to homes and now feed over 600 families a week.
Kai with Love has grown exponentially, and Steve says it’s because there’s no shortage of food waste.
“You would not believe how much there is, it is breathtaking. A hole would have been dug and that would have gone in the ground. I’m sorry, but that’s not ecologically sensible.”
New Zealand homes throw away 157,398 tonnes of edible food per year, enough food to feed the city of Dunedin for nearly three years. That means the average household in New Zealand forks out $644 a year on food that will be thrown out.
Wasted food isn’t great for the environment either. Food waste that ends up in landfill decomposes without oxygen, and releases methane as a result. The yearly food waste from the New Zealand alone produces 409,234 tonnes of carbon emissions.
Kai with Love receives food that would have otherwise gone to waste, like frozen fish from Sealord’s, or a whole range of nearly-expired food from Countdown, and redistributes it to families who need it most.
“Thank God for some of these organisations in the area that are getting on board.”
Steve says that seeing the scale of food that was getting thrown away in the region shook him, especially when, after spending time working in third world countries and with poorer communities in New Zealand, “I knew there was a need.”
“Richmond is a funny place, it doesn’t look like there is a lot of need, but unless you’ve got a different set of eyes it’s hard to see that need. We even have people say, ‘oh, but this is Richmond, everyone is fine here.’ I just didn’t believe that.”
Abigail says that with hundreds of families being fed each week, it’s easy to see the need in the community.
“It’s amazing. People leave with tears streaming down their faces. It makes such a difference in people’s lives. When bills add up, groceries are usually the things that get cut.”
Steve says they don’t “poverty checklist”. “Everyone just needs a little bit of extra help sometimes.”
Anyone can go along to the collection events at the centre in Warring Car Park on a Wednesday afternoon, or join the Facebook group.