Being good neighbours

Loving your service … we feel blessed every time food is delivered or picked up. It’s really making a huge difference to the lives of our whanau in the safe house, who have access to volumes of food they haven’t had before,” says Angie at Tauranga Women’s Refuge. SIM NZ’s Chief Financial Officer, John Paine, has moved to working 50% of his time with Food Rescue, one strand of Tauranga’s Good Neighbour Trust. “The awesome thing is to see churched and non-churched working together and helping each other and our community,” John says. “This has really captured the interest of a broad range of people.”

Food Rescue literally rescuesIMG_2031 food that would previously have gone to the dump. The motto is: “Food that’s good enough to eat, but not good enough to sell.” Because retailers get credits for goods that arrive with damaged packaging, such as cans or cardboard boxes with dents in them, they lose nothing by giving this food away. All it takes is someone to get it organised. Food Rescue operates out of a double garage, collecting these goods and bread from two big supermarkets twice a week, and baked goods from cafes each week day afternoon. John and his team then distribute the food to recipients such as the refuge, a preschool and a community centre.

Take Merivale Whanau Aroha Centre, for example, in one of the poorest parts of Tauranga. It’s a Christian-based early childhood centre that encourages holistic development and raising children of integrity and compassion. Jackie Paine came across it in her Parenting Place role, and realised that children were coming hungry each day. Since Food Rescue started bringing healthy breakfast foods, the behaviour of the children has changed. St Vincent de Paul Loaves and Fishes programme distributes 160 school lunches a week to school children in need; they too get food from the team. Two local Tauranga churches have joined with Arataki Community Centre to put on regular community meals, using rescued food. The meal is a focus for a gathering that includes music and friendship in a neighbourhood which has little social cohesion.

This is a way to get Christians in New Zealand to engage in society. The idea is spreading. The Tauranga venture is modelled on Wellington’s Kaibosh, and similar projects are starting in Hamilton, Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch. Good Neigbour Trust also redistributes and cuts firewood, makes community garden plots available, helps with building projects and much more. It was born out of a trip to Fiji to build a dispensary, and the participants thought, “Why couldn’t this sort of collaboration work here at home? By meeting practical needs, could we build better relationships, and begin the journey of transforming our communities through simple acts of generosity and kindness?”

To catch the award-winning vision of people helping each other, see the Good Neighbour website here.