Rotorua's Pataka Kai, an open pantry initiative encouraging the sharing of excess kai, is bringing local communities together but some are taking advantage of the generosity.
Organiser Jasmin Wairau said several of the Pataka Kai spots had been temporarily closed because someone was clearing out the groceries.
She said organisers were trying to work out a system to ensure everyone got a fair deal.
"Someone, and we suspect it is probably one person, has been going around all the Pataka Kai and clearing them out. In the weekend I put about 8kg worth of fruit out and within 10 minutes the whole box had been taken. That doesn't benefit the whole community.
"It's disappointing for the others who need to use it. The idea is not to come and do your weekly shop, it's for when you're in those times of need. It should be give and take, if it was working properly there should not be empty shelves - we want to redeliver that message.
"It's a positive kaupapa and we want people to know that if these are going to be sustainable they need to give as well as take," Wairau said.
Wairau said the inspiration behind the initiative came when her cousin noticed stalls outside orchards in Tauranga where excess fruit was being given away for free.
"We started about four months ago, we made a Facebook page and we have shelves up on the corner of Thebes St and Osiris St, Ian St, Matuku St and at Fordlands Community House.
"The idea is that people can drop off things they don't need and take what they do need. It's from the community, for the community. It works as a community food exchange.
"It has been really popular, we have cars stopping all the time. We've tried to do it in a positive way, to make it normal. It's something that's missing, in one generation we've lost that 'borrowing a cup of sugar from the neighbour' sort of thing."
She said it was disappointing people had taken advantage of the positive kaupapa.