Long lines, toilet paper shortages – supermarkets were packed in the days before New Zealand moved into Alert Level 4. While people across the region were stocking up, businesses around the region were doing the opposite. Cafes and restaurants in the Tasman and Nelson region had two days to get rid of fresh food and produce before they closed their doors for the foreseeable future.
So, what happened to all that food?
That’s where a local charity, Kai with Love, stepped in. The group Kai with Love was started two years ago with the aim of redistributing food that would otherwise have gone to waste, to people in the community who have a need.
“We had so many calls –cafes, restaurants – a lot of these people called Nick Smith’s office, and they put them onto us,” says Abigail Packer, one of the founders of Kai with Love.
“Couplands, for example, had masses of stock to get rid of – and a very short time to get it out. They called Bidfood and said ‘help’ and they contacted us – so there’s a fantastic network,” Abigail says.
Kai with Love has received nearly twice as many donations during the course of the lockdown, and they’ve seen an increase in distribution of 40 per cent.
“The number of households needing extra food has grown at an alarming rate,” Abigail says, “and we had tonnes of food coming in.”
Steven Dunne, co-founder of Kai with Love, says the lockdown has meant that Kai with Love has expanded their distribution zone.
“We’ve gone to Tapawera, Murchison and Motueka. In Wakefield they’d been lining up – the line was almost the length of Wakefield standing two metres apart. There is a need out there.”
Steven said that local police have also been a huge help, helping to distribute food to those in need.
“People are so grateful.”
Along with deliveries, the group has also been using a drive-through system from their base at Richmond Community Church to get food into the hands of those who need it. “We have a lot of people who usually work hard, pay the bills, and still can’t make ends meet,” Abigail says.
“I think one of the reasons we have seen an increase in distribution is the uncertainty and fear, people are living suddenly on 80 per cent of their usual income and they’re already running out.”
“It hits everybody.”
However, Abigail and Steven both say there has been an incredible ‘swell’ of generosity in the community that has risen to meet the need.
“The businesses that are hurting – in their own pain they are reaching out to help those in need.”
One of the businesses that contacted Kai with Love was Willowcreek Eggs. “They have thousands of eggs – and they can’t stop the chickens. We have these beautiful eggs to give to people who need food, but at the same time we’re hearing that big parts of their income has gone down because they deal with restaurants.”
Abigail says that while it’s been a hard time for everyone, it has brought out the best in the community.
“The giving and generosity has been incredible. People are starting to think about others more than they maybe did before – their neighbour, the older lady down the road.”