A community fridge will be set up in the Whanganui City College grounds, with the aim of providing food for people in need and reducing food waste.
A community fridge is a place where people and businesses can donate their surplus food and those in need can help themselves to free nutritious food.
The Whanganui Community Fridge project is being co-ordinated by Whanganui Regional Health Network (WRHN), based on similar projects in Auckland and Christchurch.
WRHN project lead Karen Veldhoen said they had been planning the project for more than two years, with challenges of location, funding, Covid-19 impacts and resource access.
It had been endorsed by the Whanganui District Council and Covid-19 Integrated Recovery Team, she said. The formation of the Whanganui Kai Collective had also enabled collaboration with like-minded people.
In the past year the project has received funding from Ministry of Social Development, Lottery Grants Board, Rotary Club of Wanganui North, Whanganui Community Charitable Trust and GOME Enterprises, and two large refrigerators are being donated by Fisher & Paykel.
"WCC grounds is an ideal central location for the community fridge and the students are excited to be part of this project," Veldhoen said.
"With their community garden already under way and an opportunity to pass on any left-over lunches from the healthy school lunches programme, the fridge will enable food redistribution and help prevent waste."
Students and volunteers will maintain the Community Fridge. It is hoped to keep it open seven days a week, but it will be closed overnight.
Principal Peter Kaua and vice principal Valerie Rooderkerk supported the proposal from the outset.
"We have always had a community focus and encourage our whānau to come into the school whenever they need to," Kaua said.
"Having the community fridge on site makes so much sense. Our students will benefit as much as the community."
Veldhoen said anyone - food retailers, community organisations and the public - could contribute to the fridge, while following food safety guidelines.
"I hear stories in my own neighbourhood of vegetables and fruit being thrown out due to excess, so just imagine how much gets wasted regionally," Veldhoen said.
"This will be a great opportunity to contribute to your community and support the environment.
"We are currently pulling the resources together and plan to be operational in the next couple of months."
A new survey by Rabobank-Kiwi Harvest Food Waste Research states New Zealanders are throwing out $2.4 billion worth of food a year. Two-thirds of the total wastage is fruit and vegetables, bread makes up more than a quarter (about 20 million loaves) and meat about 6 per cent.
• People who want to be involved in the daily fridge maintenance can register their interest with the Whanganui Volunteer Centre on (06) 347 9430. More information on the project is available from Karen Veldhoen on (06) 348 0109 extn 708. A Whanganui Community Fridge Facebook page has also been set up.