As businesses shut down in preparation for the month-long lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19, food banks are being inundated with food.
Some restaurants and cafes have taken ingredients and produce and put it into care packages for their staff, while others have donated it to customers and food banks.
KiwiHarvest, the country's largest food rescue organisation, which supplies food to more than 100 agencies, including the Auckland City Mission and the Salvation Army, has received an additional eight to 10 tonnes of food since Saturday.
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Gavin Findlay, chief executive of KiwiHarvest, said following the Government's announcement on Saturday that it would gradually move New Zealand into Covid-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown it had experienced a surge in food donations - and expected to have an additional 8000kg of food by the end of the week.
Nationwide, the not-for-profit receives around 1200 tonnes of food donations a year, equating to about 120 tonnes per month - 65 per cent of which, comes from the Auckland.
Findlay said KiwiHarvest had received between 15-20 per cent extra this week.
"There's been a high volume of traffic with people not wanting to throw [their food] out - it's fantastic - they want to put it to good use, and where we can, we have," Findlay told the Herald.
"There are hundreds of thousands of individual restaurants and cafes offering donations and it's really difficult trying to logistically organise that."
KiwiHarvest, which only accepts produce, meats, and dried and sealed goods, had in recent days received large donations from Subway and from Restaurant Brands' network of fast food stores including KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Carl's Jr, along with hundreds independent restaurants and cafes through the Restaurant Association.
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This morning a handful of organisations had dropped off bottles of unopened milk, along with 5kg worth of unopened sour cream and jars of mayonnaise.
Findlay said the KiwiHarvest team based in the Highbrook were working overtime to collect as much food as possible which would otherwise good to landfill.
"We've had to get in an extra 20-foot chiller container to store the volumes of product we're getting in," he said.
"The good thing is [businesses] are reaching out, rather than dumping, because the environmental impact of the massive surge in food getting dumped in landfill would be huge."
Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said its members throughout the country had been proactive in their approach to minimise food waste ahead of the closures.
"People have been giving away ingredients, a number of members have had giveaways for their customers, and meal kits, we've had a few members who have put together boxes; there's been some real generosity going on in the industry," Bidois said.
"Some of our members are giving their teams food for the next few weeks as well."
Bruce Craig, owner-operator of vegan fast food operator Lord of the Fries, said the franchise did not have a lot of waste as much of its food was frozen, but any leftovers it had by 9pm tonight would be going home with his staff.
Lord of the Fries operates four stores - three in Auckland, one in Queenstown, and in recent weeks, its Queenstown store had experienced a 70-80 per cent drop in revenue.
"Seeing what was coming and seeing the revenue dropping, we have been reducing our orders and planning for closure tonight, and I don't expect us to have much leftover as waste," Craig said.
"Anything that's left, we've said to the staff to take some home; there might be some thawed hot dogs and bits of veggie bacon, buns and some salad."
Craig said Lord of the Fries supported the Government's decision to close down all non-essential businesses. Its initial fall-back plan was to operate a closed store with one staff member cooking and fulfilling Uber Eats orders at a time.
"I think doing [the lockdown] before we have to is the best call. We already have our Government support lined up so we can look after our staff and hold on to them all," he said.
"As plant-based food operators, I strongly believe we would not be in this situation if we weren't eating animal products."
McDonald's has also been preparing for closure by donating unused perishable food to food banks and charities, a lot of its food is going to Ronald McDonald House in Auckland.
"We've been adjusting deliveries and allocations to restaurants as we've worked through the changes in alert levels, to minimise waste," a spokesman for McDonald's said.
The company stopped serving dine-in on Monday and has been operating via its drive-thrus. "It's been a balancing act of having enough food to manage the increased demand in drive-thru as people get their last Macca's fix for a while, and ensuring restaurants don't have to waste too much," the spokesman said.
"We serve about 1.6 million people each week, so managing supply chain has been a massive job."
McDonald's 170 restaurants began closing throughout the day, and will all be closed by 8pm tonight. The company says it will be leave its Wi-Fi on during the lockdown so people in need of internet access can drive into the store carparks and use it.
'Care packages' for staff
Ofir Yudilevich, owner of whiskey bar The Jefferson and seafood restaurant Billypot in downtown Auckland said when he found out New Zealand would move into Covid-19 Alert level 3 and 4 he shut down his businesses straight away.
Instead of letting his incoming container of food go to waste, Yudilevich allocated about $2500 worth of food to his 10 staff between the two venues.
"We had ordered about $2500 worth of food to come in and then all of us went into The Jefferson we cleaned up the place, and at the end of it, we divided all of the food up and made food packs for every member to the value of about $250," Yudilevich told the Herald.
"It was basically things like oil, canned meat, canned tuna, long-life milk, rice, noodles, a full-on crate with goods."
Staff received enough food to get them through the next week or two, he said.
"There's no motive to it, just me taking care of my staff.
"A lot of these guys are living week to week, some financially-challenged. They are on my wage subsidy scheme from the Government, which is good, so they'll all get the $585 or $350 - that's taxed so after that they'll probably just have enough for the rent," he said.
"What I hate to think about is food being thrown away, on so many levels that's wrong, especially with all the pressure on the supermarkets and when there's staff that would eat it."
Yudilevich said it felt good to look after his staff. "These guys are loyal, these guys are family, they work hard ... $2500 for the business, even though we're suffering right now with everyone else, is peanuts compared to what they would have to spend."
He called for more restaurants to look after their staff over and beyond the wage subsidy during this time of uncertainty.