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Gizzy Kai Rescue was launched almost one year ago to the day. The idea formed when two Gisborne women Michele Ferrere and Alena Swannell discovered they shared the same dream of rescuing perfectly good food from the waste stream and diverting it to people in need. Individually they had felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the proposition but together they decided, they might just be able to make it happen.

The two enlisted the help of Sarah Punnet and started collecting intel on how best to carry out such an operation. Many of the systems and guiding principles that have gotten Gizzy Kai Rescue to where they are today were based on those of Wellington-based Kaibosh, New Zealand’s oldest food rescue organisation.  Satisty, another food rescue operation based in North Canterbury was also a useful source of know-how and expertise.

The group’s aims fitted well with the Gisborne District Council’s goals to reduce the amount of green waste going to landfill by 40 percent and funds they acquired through the Waste Minimisation Fund along with a grant from ECT’s community resilience fund saw the venture take flight on October 31 of last year. Further grants from Lotteries and COGS, generous donations from local and national groups and businesses have helped to keep them going.

In their one year of operation Gizzy Food Rescue has rescued over 41 tonnes of food items and 700 kilos of non-food items from going to landfill.

Today a rotation of 40 volunteers see items collected once or twice a day from Pak n Save and Countdown and then sorted, ready to be picked up by seven different recipient organisations, which are responsible for distributing the goods to their clients. Items include bread, eggs, vegetables, tinned food, cereals, baby products and non-food items, most of which are unable to be sold because of damaged packaging.

One of the strengths of Gizzy Kai Rescue is a structure that ensures the rescued goods go to people in need. In partnering with organisations such as Supergrans and Te Hiringa Matua, which provide other wrap around services, there are existing relationships and more to the relationship than the provision of free food. These organisations know their clients, they can ensure aspects such as food safety, and there is less likelihood of issues such as on-selling or people not necessarily in need accessing the items, which can’t be guaranteed with other resources such as Food Pantries.

As one of GKR’s volunteers Heather points out “not everyone has transport and people can be shy about asking for food. To have these organisations who know the people in need are, means we know that this food is getting to people who need it – that’s really important. We trust there’s accountability, and it’s all going through the right channels”. This accountability is important to anyone invested in the process, volunteers as well as donors.

And as word has spread as to the tight ship Gizzy Kai Rescue have been running, so have wanna-be-donors been starting to knock at the door with offers of food to be rescued. With so much produce grown in the Tairawhiti you can imagine how much ends up being plowed back into paddocks, fed to animals or left to rot.

Sitting at the other end of the operations is a list of about 20 potential recipient organisations with clients in massive need. Recent research carried out by the Auckland City Mission has found that one in ten New Zealanders lives with some form of food insecurity.

With all of this capacity for growth at both ends of the Gizzy Kai Rescue equation, the organisation is at a crossroads. But while that it is usually an enviable position for a new enterprise to be in, Michele wishes there weren’t so many people struggling to put food on the table and there wasn’t so much food needing to be rescued.

Catering to the increased demand at both ends represents a huge logistical exercise, which Gizzy Kai Rescue is unable to meet in their current model. They have secured funding through ECT to hire a Fulltime Manager for the next three years – someone who can help take the organisation to the next level.

The Friday I was in at the GKR premises all of the volunteers in that day had been involved in GKR from the start. I was struck by the energy, laughter and enthusiasm that filled the space and floated out onto the street. Michele spoke of our “really giving community” which has enabled Gizzy Kai Rescue to be the success it is, as the volunteers themselves were all quick to speak about how their involvement with GKR actually feeds them. 

Carol Proudfoot who also volunteers at other local charities explained “I’m widowed now and I have no intention of sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. You meet all sorts of people..I think [GKR] is a bloody good thing and there must be a hang of a lot of people out there who need this.”

Anne on the other hand, had gone out and got a casual paid job when she returned to Gisborne from Tauranga but hadn’t got any satisfaction from it “so I thought ‘stuff it, I’m going to resign and I’m going to do voluntary work’ and I love it. I feel, yeah..I’ve done something good, you know..” Anne is another prolific volunteer.

Times are changing. France for example have brought in laws making it is illegal for supermarkets to dump food. But for now, Gizzy Kai Rescue are fulfilling a priceless gap, which benefits both our people and our environment. They also know they can do more and are just looking for the right person to help them make the leap to the next phase which will enable them to feed more mouths and save more kai. 

Is that person you, or someone you know? Spread the word.

And Gizzy Kai Rescue thank you for your awesome mahi, you’re doing an amazing job.

Find the Job Description on the Gizzy Kai Rescue Facebook Page.

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