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New Wairarapa food rescue hub opens

Waiwaste’s new Masterton premises will be a food hub for all of Wairarapa. PHOTOS/SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI

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Food rescue organisation Waiwaste celebrated the opening of a region-wide food hub in Masterton on Monday.

Mayors Greg Lang and Alex Beijen cut the ribbon to Wairarapa’s new food hub.

The hub, on Hope St, was part of the ‘New Zealand Food Network’ established in October last year to provide support for food banks and other organisations.

Waiwaste chairman Jeremy Logan said the organisation had come a long way from its first meeting about six years ago.

“We had no inkling, no idea that we’d have a great big warehouse.”

Worldwide, there had been an increase in awareness of food wastage, Logan said.

It was estimated that about a quarter of all food produce was wasted, releasing about 4.4 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas a year.

This year, covid-19 had helped to increase understanding even further, he said.

“It really sharpened our awareness around food shortage and food waste.”

Each month, Waiwaste collected about one tonne of food to redistribute. Now, as part of the NZFN, it would be able to provide additional support to community organisations.

“We are really fortunate that we’ve got this food hub because not many small towns do,” Logan said.

“Mainly, I want to acknowledge the donors, the people that provide food for us … Without them, we wouldn’t be here.”

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni announced additional funding of about $32 million to respond to the increase in demand for food through community food service providers as a result of covid-19 in May.

Waiwaste co-ordinator Elise Sadler said the organisation had collected over 246 tonnes of food in Masterton alone.

“That food has gone into the Masterton Foodbank, the community kitchen,” she said, “What we’re talking about here is something extra to that.”

The national network had the ability to leverage big companies in larger cities, Sadler said, which would address “food going to waste on a much bigger level”.

“We don’t have so much in the way of food producers here.”

The NZFN endeavoured to provide 20 per cent of the food distributed by food banks and other community organisations, she said. The food hub would allow Waiwaste to work with more community organisations.

Non-perishable items were already being distributed from the new premises, and it was hoped chilled and frozen foods would begin to be distributed in February, once the industrial freezer and chiller had been installed.

Carterton Mayor Greg Lang and South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen cut the ribbon as part of the opening ceremony.

Lang described the building as “fantastic”, and said it was “a huge step forward for Wairarapa”.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said while it was “sad” food redistribution was needed because of poverty, the new hub would “serve the region well”.

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