Northland woman Kelley Fleming has taken her love for food and put it in to volunteering in a vegetarian cafe which provides up to 1000 meals a week for Northland school children and koha meals to the public.

But Food for Life Cafe needs more volunteers like Ms Fleming. For the first time in five years the cafe has struggled to find volunteers to help with food preparation, serving meals and cleaning up the kitchen.

Ms Fleming, who has been volunteering nearly every Tuesday for the past two years, decided to volunteer after the youngest of her four kids started school.

"I saw an article in the paper calling for volunteers ... and I thought it would be a great thing to be involved in."


She said she loves cooking and food so volunteering in the cafe kitchen was a good fit for her. She wanted to encourage more people to volunteer.

"It's great, you make beautiful vegetarian food. It's great fun and you're helping the community." Cafe founder Buddhi Wilcox said working in the kitchen gave people new skills and most importantly gave people a real sense of fulfilment by helping the community.

Food for Life Northland was established in 2012 after Mr Wilcox became aware of the great need for healthy meals for school children in Northland, many who often went hungry, and in the first year provided 5000 meals. Now the cafe produces 1000 meals a week.

"We have been fortunate over the years to have had some great volunteers. What we are after now is a reliable potscrubber and people to help with preparation and cleanup. We need people who are going to make a commitment to be here."

He said an advert appealing for volunteers was put in the cafe window but there had not been a great response.

"To work here people need to have a good attitude, be able to work with other people, have a sense of humour."

The cafe on Water St in Whangarei operates two shifts - 9am-midday and 11.30am to 2.30pm - Monday to Thursday. Volunteers were needed for both. He said currently the cook at times was not only cooking, but doing the dishes and cleaning.

Food For Life relies on donations to meet its side of the school meals bargain, including the food itself, much of which is leftover produce from the Saturday Whangarei Growers Market and surplus, home-grown fruit and vegetables donated by individuals.