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Soup kitchen is a waste winner

From left, Bev Jack, Elise Sadler, and volunteers Merv Jones, Jill Kennard, and Rosemary Marr, with some of the free soups that were on offer on Tuesday. Each soup was made from rescued food, provided by Waiwaste, and cooked by volunteers at the Wairarapa Community Centre kitchen. PHOTO/ARTHUR HAWKES

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On Tuesday morning, Waiwaste Food Rescue teamed up with the Wairarapa Community Centre, providing free soups to passers-by.

Volunteers from the community centre’s kitchen are normally found cooking up emergency meals for people in need.

On Monday they did something a little different and spent about seven hours cooking up a host of different soups, which were all made of food from Waiwaste – food that would otherwise have been consigned to landfill.

While the two groups had been collaborating to provide meals for those in need for several years, this particular event was to raise awareness for food waste and the good work of the kitchen, in conjunction with the ‘International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste’ organised by the United Nations.

Elise Sadler, co-ordinator of Waiwaste, said the group salvages more than a ton of food a week, all destined to be thrown out by our region’s stores, and delivers this to the community kitchen.

“The produce predominantly comes from supermarkets,” Sadler said. “We give the community centre rescued food, particularly vegetables, each day, then they give them out to people who are in a crisis, through agencies.

“We receive about 1.5 tonnes of food a week in Masterton, and so that’s fresh produce, bread, dairy products, meat, the whole lot.”

Sadler also cited a UN study which showed that eight per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions were derived from wasted food rotting.

Reducing food waste was stated to be the third biggest way to take action against climate change, which was able to be combined with helping the community through emergency meals.

The food Waiwaste gathers is collected from the supermarkets in their electric van, and arrives at the Wairarapa Community Centre on Perry St, where the produce is then unloaded and presented to the volunteer cooks at the community kitchen, which operates from the centre.

These culinary volunteers then decide what to make from the produce, and spend several hours cooking up delicious meals, which they then portion individually and freeze for later distribution.

Bev Jack, manager of Wairarapa Community Centre, described the voluntary effort involved in running the community kitchen.

“We have over 80 volunteers that work with us on a weekly basis to turn that rescued food into meals. We call them ‘emergency meals’ and they’re given free to the community.”

The agencies then take these meals from the community kitchen and distribute them to their own clients – this way the client only needs to deal with one agency.

“They could be receiving these for medical reasons, homelessness, financial reasons, old age, mental illness, a crisis in the family, domestic violence; it’s just to help them get back on their feet again. It’s to help them through that short-term situation.”

Jack said that Tuesday’s soup kitchen ‘pop-up’ was primarily about “acknowledging the connection” between Waiwaste and the Wairarapa Community Centre.

“I work with the community volunteers about what we’re going to cook that week, and we plan our meals around what’s coming through the door from Waiwaste.”

Jack said the community kitchen also runs cooking classes to help teach people in need how to cook healthily and cheaply, which are advertised on their Facebook page [Wairarapa Community Centre Trust], and to the relevant agencies.

This has become more of a problem as families can become reliant on expensive fast food, and never learn to cook healthy meals. Jack said they were on a mission to get these people cooking.

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