SOUP MIX: Waste Not Want Not founder Janene Maguire sets up the soup mix table ahead of opening time. When an abundance of grains, pulses and rice have been donated, she says volunteers make up jars of soup mix that can be used to create an easy dinner. Photo Troy Baker D8974-05

A STAGGERING 41 tonnes of food otherwise destined for landfill has found its way instead into considerably more useful places – the stomachs of Eastern Bay residents.

Janene Maguire who founded the highly successful food salvage initiative Waste Not Want Not in June of last year, says figures meticulously kept show that over 6770 people have walked through the doors of Waste Not Want Not since its opening 14 months ago, collecting food that would otherwise have been thrown.

Janene says she launched the initiative with the primary goal of reducing waste. “It was primarily an environmental initiative. I wanted to prevent those tonnes of good, edible food from going to waste. It’s really bad for the landfill.”

She says the fact that the food could also then go to those who were in need, or in fact, anyone who could use it, was a bonus that has produced an all-round win-win situation.

“Every year an estimated $872 million of food goes to waste in New Zealand. This food needs to go to local families, not end up in landfills.”

Janene co-ordinates the efforts of a now 44-strong team of volunteers who collect unwanted food items from a host of businesses including New World and Pakn Save, The Village Bakery, Fresh Market, Bin Inn, Whakatane Organics, Ohope Four Square and some cafés.

Three times a week, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 4pm to 5pm, collected food is made available to the public with Waste Not Want Not setting up in the rear of Pou Whaakaro’s building in Bracken Street opposite Mitre 10.

“The idea is that people can pick up fresh food for that night’s dinner,” Janene says. “We like to think that anyone who needs the food can feel totally comfortable coming in to get it. I know that’s not always easy for people. We get people coming with letters that support their situation, but we are not about that at all.

“We’re not like a food bank. The food is here for everyone, whether you are in need or not. There’s enough for everyone. We just don’t want it to go to waste.”

Janene has also built strong links to community groups in the region who may benefit from the food, and now oversees regular deliveries to around 14 such groups.

“We also have groups, sometimes who’ve travelled considerable distances, come to collect food left over at the end of our open times.”

“It’s really working well,” says Janene who travelled to visit several similar initiatives operating in other areas before launching Waste Not Want not in Whakatane. “It really is incredible when you see all the food on the tables prior to an opening time and think it was just going to the landfill.”

She says food collected from contributing businesses typically includes bread, buns and some bakery items, fruit and vegetables and random grocery items. “Last week we had bags of frozen beans, and lots of boxes of two-minute noodles. It changes all the time.”

She says food donated to and distributed by Waste Not Want Not is done so following strict criteria. “The businesses follow set criteria, and so do we. We can’t distribute anything past its ‘use by’ or ‘expiry’ date, though we do have a little leeway on ‘best before’ dates that the supermarkets don’t have. But many items collected are simply foods that supermarkets choose to make and sell within one day. Breads, for example.”

Janene is full of praise for the many businesses in the community who she says have been unfaltering in their generosity for the project.

For example, she says Waste Not Want Not could not have run in the way that it does without Pou Whaakaro’s generosity in providing the space, Ocean Ford’s generous donation of a van, and the ongoing petrol contributions from Caltex.

“We’ve had fantastic support from a lot of local businesses. This is a community that just keeps on giving.”

Reluctant to take credit herself, Janene instead credits the success of Waste Not Want Not to its contributors and to the input of many.

“I did start it, but I had some great people come on board early on who made big contributions to getting things off the ground. And I have lots of amazing volunteers. I don’t feel like the success had been created by me. It’s been created by everyone who helps to make it happen.” Volunteers have contributed 2850 hours since the venture began.

Janene concedes though that she often closes up an opening period with a smile on her face. “I do love it and I walk out the door thinking yes, that was a really good day.”

There are 44 volunteers who keep Waste Not Want Not running, but Janene says “if any of those volunteers dropped off, we’d be in trouble. We’re always looking for more”.

Anyone interesting in volunteering in any of a range of roles, contributing as few or as many hours as suits, can contact Janene by email Janene@ohopebeach.co.nz.

By Lorraine Wilson