It has been a big few years at Tauranga Community Foodbank, and no one knows that better than outgoing board boss Sharon Hitchcock.

The Tauranga woman has been on the board for four years - two as chairwoman. In that time she has helped transition the charity service into a more business-focused entity.

But it hasn't been without its challenges. Hitchcock was at the helm when the charity service discovered it would have to start paying rent.

Until October 2015, the foodbank had use of a Tauranga City Council-owned building on Dive Cres rent-free. However, the foodbank had to move to a private building on Brook St, Fraser Cove, after asbestos and toxic black mould were found in the Dive Cres premises in 2015.


The council came to the party when the foodbank first shifted and covered the lease for 15 months, on the understanding that the foodbank would start paying rent in April 2017.

In 2018 they were on their own. Its first rent bill for the year was $34,000.

Hitchcock said it was "challenging".

"I had to negotiate. I had to have a lot of communication with outside parties like the council and other stakeholders. We've looked at a couple of buildings and gone through due diligence which was a biggie."

A surge in demand also prompted an unprecedented SOS early in 2017.

But highlights such as the Bay of Plenty Times Christmas Appeal, the impact that had on the service, and educating people about what the foodbank does were key highlights for the former banker.

"Another change was that we've gone from the era of the board being volunteers to being a more professional local board - half business people and half people who are volunteers as well," Hitchcock said.

"We had to change the model a bit because it has grown so much, it needs to be run a bit more like a professional business more than a charity and to do that you have to have strategic plans and policies in place."


Former Ballance chief executive Larry Bilodeau took over the reins as the foodbank's new chairman last week.

Hitchcock said she set out to help the foodbank move forward and she felt she had done that. Now, Hitchcock is looking forward to having a bit of a break.

"We got the foodbank where I want it to be and I leave it in good heart and in good hands. But it's time for a change."