This Christmas, the Herald is profiling 12 charities chosen to get a $12,000 grant from Auckland Airport as part of its 12 Days of Christmas giving programme – now in its twelfth year. The $144,000 comes from generous travellers who donate money in globes throughout the airport.

"Respect – that's what really counts." Food is not the only reason people queue for a three-course meal at Everybody Eats, says Amanda Burton. The single mum goes to the community restaurant regularly with her dependent son because of the way they're treated.

"We are respected no matter how we dress or what we look like. Everyone is welcomed with smiles, whether they are working or not. The volunteers who serve us make us feel so important. It's a place where you can go with no judgement," she says.

Everybody Eats offers pay-as-you-feel meals using food otherwise destined for landfill to reduce food waste, food poverty and social isolation. It is one of twelve charities receiving $12,000 each as part of Auckland Airport's Twelve Days of Christmas giving programme.

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Amanda first started going to Everybody Eats in Avondale with her 17-year-old son Damien, who has ADD and behavioural disorders which require her full-time care. "We knew it was in our needs with us being on a limited budget. In hard times we're scratching to buy food so we thought we'd give it a go and it was just beautiful - big plates, three course meals. You can donate if you have it and there's no questions asked on what you did with your money."

Regular customer Amanda Burton chats to a volunteer at Everybody Eats, Onehunga. Photo / Alex McVinnie
Regular customer Amanda Burton chats to a volunteer at Everybody Eats, Onehunga. Photo / Alex McVinnie

When the Avondale restaurant closed, they started going to the central city branch in Gemmayze St. Now Everybody Eats has a new, permanent premises in Onehunga where they go once a fortnight on a Tuesday - the day before benefits are paid. Damien says his mum has always saved a gold coin to donate. "It's really friendly experience," he says. "When we share tables, we get to meet other people too."

People from all walks of life fill the well-appointed, contemporary space the night. At the larger, shared tables, middle-class families mingle with beneficiaries and the working poor. Everybody Eats founder Nick Loosley says it takes a team of 20 volunteers to prepare and serve 150 people each night.

Auckland Airport's general manager of corporate services Mary-Liz Tuck says the grant will be used to buy a walk-in freezer and sorting area so more food can be saved and stored.

"We appreciate that Everybody Eats brings people together to eat good quality food, create a unique space for community engagement and encourage zero waste. We're thrilled the grant will enhance their new facility," she says.