Free food store cel­e­brates six years of ser­vice

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - GE­OR­GIA FOR­RESTER

Some peo­ple wouldn’t think twice about throw­ing their left­overs in the bin.

Others, like Re­becca Cul­ver, would in­stead give their ex­cess food to the home­less.

Cul­ver has been break­ing bread and shar­ing food with needy peo­ple even be­fore she founded her food char­ity, Just Zilch, which turned 6 this month.

Be­fore Zilch’s in­cep­tion, Cul­ver had worked in a su­per­mar­ket and was hor­ri­fied to see all the left­over food be­ing dis­posed of.

‘‘I thought, why is all this food go­ing to waste when we have these peo­ple in need.’’

When vol­un­teer­ing for an or­gan­i­sa­tion that gave away its left­over bread, the idea of a free food store was born.

Peo­ple can ac­cess food at Just Zilch and not be ques­tioned or judged.

Over the years Cul­ver has seen the num­ber of peo­ple us­ing the ser­vice more than dou­ble, as re­tirees, grand­par­ents, stu­dents, ben­e­fi­cia­ries, work­ers, par­ents, fam­i­lies and peo­ple with health and men­tal health is­sues, visit each day in need of free gro­cery items.

This year on av­er­age about 190 peo­ple visit Just Zilch for food each day.

Last week there was an av­er­age of 239 peo­ple, Cul­ver said.

Although num­bers fluc­tu­ated, there was a clear need for food and ba­sic gro­cery items from peo­ple who were strug­gling.

A sur­vey by Massey Univer­sity stu­dents found the largest group to use the ser­vice were Pakeha males, aged 30-54 years.

About 47 per­cent of those sur­veyed lived in house­holds with chil­dren.

Some of the rea­sons peo­ple vis­ited Just Zilch in­cluded: money not stretch­ing far enough; strug­gling with bills, pen­sion­ers find­ing it hard to pay bills and care for grand­chil­dren; be­ing be­hind in pay­ments; and the ben­e­fit not be­ing enough.

Her mis­sion was to en­cour­age the Palmer­ston North com­mu­nity to never let any­one go hun­gry.

Now Just Zilch had not only be­come a pop­u­lar food store, but also a dis­tri­bu­tion hub for other char­i­ties, Cul­ver was aim­ing to grow fur­ther.

‘‘We live in a very gen­er­ous com­mu­nity, and Just Zilch is only pos­si­ble be­cause we have so many gen­er­ous providers and vol­un­teers. To­gether, we are fo­cused on cre­at­ing a so­ci­ety free from hunger by re­duc­ing food waste.’’

WAR­WICK SMITH

Mar­ion Birch re­ceiv­ing a help­ing hand from Just Zilch vol­un­teer Liam Clay­ton.

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