We asked Rebecca from Just Zilch about how her organisation has grown from its outset to become the biggest free food store in New Zealand!
How did Just Zilch Start?
Just Zilch started because I was volunteering at another organisation that had leftover food. I got permission to give that food away around town. I found I was always really busy and people were responding to it. I then found out about the concept of a food store and though that was a great idea seeing as that was what I was basically doing! I took that idea and over the next 9 months developed it and found a team that were wanting to work with me. In June 2011 we opened?
How has Just Zilch changed?
The growth has been unbelievable. In the first year we were serving around 80 people a day. Now, we have over 300 people come through the shop a day. The sheer numbers have drastically increased. This has meant we rely on a whole lot more on volunteers.
What challenges have to Covid-19 lockdown presented?
Because we were not clarified as an essential service, we worked with other social services such as the Salvation army and Methodist food banks and gave them the food we collected, and they put it into packs that were then delivered to households. This provided some relief to families that were low on food.
What are your plans for the future of the food bank?
It has been really amazing because, over the lockdown period, we got more food than we ever had before. Particularly in terms of non-perishable food. This is very exciting because we have been able upscale the other part of what we do which is keep food in our warehouse which we acquired last year. This meas. We have been able to give food to other community organisations. Whanganui, Levin, Rotorua, Hawkes bay and even the South Island! We have had the help of very generous transport companies such as PBT helping us with this.
What are the guidelines around donating food?
There are no rules really. We are set up to take perishable foods. If people have food from their garden like fruits and vegetables, we are able to take them. If people are cleaning out their cupboards and are able to donate it, we will take those kinds of things too. Even if businesses want to donate bigger lots of food we are able to take that too!
What is your volunteer process?
It is really, really easy! We now have a volunteer coordinator as we have to many volunteers!
We ask people to email or come in and see the volunteer coordinator.
What are the volunteer’s responsibilities?
It depends what they’re doing. We have around 110 volunteers every week. We have a shop so in the morning some duties include cleaning, collecting food. When the shop opens, we need shopkeepers/servers.