In August 2020, after New Zealand's first Covid-19 lockdown, local woman Tania Machuca identified a need for food support in the Horowhenua.
She saw there was an opportunity to 'rescue' food from local businesses that would otherwise be wasted or thrown out, yet was still perfectly edible, and redistribute it to those in need throughout the community.
Machuca's passion and vision needed help to become a reality so she was put in touch with Karen Morley, an administrator at the Hope Centre church, who began the process of finding funding and approaching local businesses for support.
A year later the free food shop, known as Hope Kete, is still going strong and has found the demand for its services has increased again with our recent lockdown.
This service is part of a nationwide network that sprouted up around New Zealand since the outbreak of Covid-19 last year and Hope Kete is the Horowhenua branch.
Morley said the usual process, prior to lockdown, was for Hope Kete to open once or twice a week for a couple of hours and people were encouraged to bring their own supermarket bags to fill up with what they needed.
"There's no questions asked ... no criteria to meet ... the only details taken are for our statistics [such as] how many people we serve and the weight of groceries given out," she said.
When lockdown hit again last month, Hope Kete was unable to open on its usual Wednesday, so co-directors Morley and Machuca investigated what needed to happen to enable the free food stall to continue to support the community during level 4.
Volunteers got to work pre-packaging bags with food and necessities and a week after lockdown began the community was invited to scan in and grab a bag from the premises in Kent St.
"That was an epic first day," said Morley. "We gave out 100 food boxes, which was 1.65 tonnes of food."
Hope Kete could only operate with four volunteers in level 4, but with the move to level 3 last week the group was able to increase their bubble to six people and on Wednesday, September 1 gave out 150 pre-prepared bags with a total of 2.2 tonnes of food in them.
However, Morley is unsure if Hope Kete will be able to open this Wednesday, as at the moment they have run out of food.
"If any of the cafes or restaurants that have opened up this week have surplus or leftover food at the end of the day [that they'd like to donate] we'd be happy to come and pick it up," she said.
Businesses who want to help with supplying 'rescue food' can call Karen Morley on 027 417 5815.
Hope Kete is also seeking financial support as well, to help cover some of the extra expenses such as vehicle costs to collect food, bags and containers to split up bulk items, plastic wrap, etc.
"There is a real need in our community [and] many families are struggling at the moment, so if you can help us in any way please get in touch," Morley said.