In­creas­ing need for city free food store Just Zilch

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - RICHARD MAYS

Palmer­ston North free food store Just Zilch is deal­ing with un­prece­dented de­mand as al­most 300 peo­ple stop in daily.

Since re­open­ing in Jan­uary af­ter the Christ­mas - New Year break, store founder Re­becca Cul­ver said they’d no­ticed an in­crease in peo­ple from all walks of life through the doors.

‘‘The av­er­age has crept up to just over 200 a day. Some days we’re deal­ing with 260 - 270 peo­ple. It’s crazy - num­bers that we’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore.’’

Some of that in­crease could be due to more peo­ple be­ing aware of the store, or the Feather­ston St lo­ca­tion be­ing more ac­ces­si­ble, but Cul­ver sus­pects it’s be­cause greater num­bers of peo­ple are find­ing it harder to make ends meet.

Juliet Tocker started com­ing to Just Zilch two weeks ago af­ter mov­ing to the city from Levin. Tocker said while she was just get­ting by in the smaller town, the ex­tra cost of liv­ing in a big­ger cen­tre made it a strug­gle to get by. Sup­plies from Just Zilch pro­vided a wel­come top-up.

As well as the usual 4.30pm open­ing time, Just Zilch also opens for an hour from 1.30pm.

‘‘We’re now see­ing be­tween 50 - 90 peo­ple [then], even though at that time of the day, it’s not the best se­lec­tion. The full range of food doesn’t come in un­til later in the day,’’ Cul­ver said.

Vol­un­teer staff used af­ter­noons to col­lect re­us­able food do­nated from city busi­nesses and re-stock the shelves. Cul­ver said the store had about 60 vol­un­teers it could call on.

The sug­ges­tion for an ear­lier shop­ping win­dow came from cus­tomers who, for var­i­ous rea­sons, were un­able to come af­ter 4.30pm and the ex­tra trad­ing hour was suc­cess­fully tri­alled last Au­gust.

‘‘Num­bers started off rea­son­ably light, but it’s grown in pop­u­lar­ity.’’

Shane Glock­ling said he pre-

‘‘Some days we're deal­ing with 260 - 270 peo­ple.’’

Re­becca Cul­ver Just Zilch

ferred com­ing to ‘‘the cheap­est store in town’’ at the ear­lier time ‘‘be­cause it was more flex­i­ble and there were no kids around’’. Queues weren’t as long ei­ther.

While the qual­ity and quan­tity of prod­ucts avail­able at Just Zilch had im­proved thanks to their sup­pli­ers, Cul­ver said they were still seek­ing new busi­nesses that wanted to add to their ‘‘triple bot­tom line’’ by con­tribut­ing any sur­plus prod­ucts to the com­mu­nity.

At this time she said they were light on fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles.

DAVID UN­WIN/FAIR­FAX NZ

Just Zilch store man­ager Ben Suther­land and founder Re­becca Cul­ver help dis­trib­ute food to some of the hun­dreds of peo­ple vis­it­ing daily.

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