How Nicholas Loosley is bringing back the fundamentals of eating by reducing food waste and helping homeless

This is part of a Newshub Q&A series with influential Kiwis who are making their mark on the world. 

To see people from all walks of life sit and enjoy a meal with one another was the starting point for Nicholas Loosley to create Everybody Eats. 

Today the charity helps people living in food poverty, but it's not a soup kitchen. 

It started out with 80 weekly diners after establishing in June 2017, growing to more than 350 each week today. 

Everybody Eats is designed in the way that it allows people who would have never crossed paths to sit together and eat food, that would have otherwise been thrown away. 

How Nicholas Loosley is bringing back the fundamentals of eating by reducing food waste and helping homeless
Photo credit: Newshub.

In New Zealand, we toss 157,389 tonnes of food away each year, worth about $1.17 billion - in total about one-third of the food we produce. 

When he learned of the enormity of our food wastage five years ago, he was shocked and disappointed. But he also saw an opportunity to make a difference in reducing those figures. 

Today, it's the social element that is the most gripping to diners, Loosley says, which isn't by accident. 

Loosley visited 12 different projects around the UK and Spain while researching for a Masters in Green Economics to learn about how different projects could use food as a tool to bring people together.

After discovering organisations doing similar work, the 33-year-old figured what problems could be solved in the food system if we cooked and shared food as our ancestors did to launch his own project in Auckland.  

He now works with many of Auckland's top chefs who volunteer their time toward making an inclusive and enjoyable experience for visitors. 

How are food delivery services changing the fundamentals of eating? 

 

Convenience culture allows consumers to have whatever we want, whenever we want it, wherever we want it. Uber Eats is a big enemy for a concept like Everybody Eats that aims to bring people together. 

Sitting around a table eating is a fundamental part of being a human, that's why every celebration we have is around food; you have a birthday, you have Christmas, all around food.

The less we sit together and celebrate the more we separate ourselves from one another. 

Everybody Eats serves diners three-course meals from food that would otherwise be tossed.
Everybody Eats serves diners three-course meals from food that would otherwise be tossed. Photo credit: Supplied / Everybody Eats.

What is it doing to the social elements of dining with others?

 

It’s too attractive and encourages us to get out of the kitchen and onto the couch, and more often than not, eat on our own. 

It's got its time and place but it's too easy, it disconnects us from the food, you don't even have to cook it anymore, you can isolate yourself.

You can sit in front of Netflix and Uber Eats and that's your night, twenty years ago people were sitting in front of televisions but at least they were dining around a table to start with. 

What is the reality of the world that we're living in when it comes to food wastage? 

 

We waste around a third of the food that we produce and I think the best thing for people to do to stop wasting that food is to engage more in the food system - so that means to understand more about how that food was produced.

You won't find farmers wasting food, because they know how hard it is to produce it and how precious all of the materials, all the water, all the energy that went into it. 

The more that we can go into a supermarket and find mince wrapped in plastic, sitting in a polystyrene tray, the more we're going to throw it away because we just have no connection to where it came from. 

The charity has jumped from 80 visitors per week to 350.
The charity has jumped from 80 visitors per week to 350. Photo credit: Supplied / Everybody Eats.

Where do you source your ingredients? 

 

We work really closely with the national food rescue charity Kiwi Harvest, we've been strong allies with them for a long time now since we started.

We also work with New World Eastridge, and then we have a lot of ad-hoc donors, so we get stuff off Lewis Road Creamery, all sorts of different generous New Zealand businesses that want to do the right thing with their surplus food. 

What has been the reaction been from the people who are actually benefiting from your idea? 

 

The reaction has been incredible, we started off feeding 80 people a week in St Kevin's Arcade on K Road, and now we're feeding up to 370.

About half of them we consider to be vulnerable or suffering food poverty, so that's homeless, elderly, single mothers, single fathers, people suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues.

They love it and we love feeding them, it's just a really great all-round experience for everyone.

In New Zealand, we toss 157,389 tonnes of food away each year, worth about $1.17 billion - in total about one-third of the food we produce.
In New Zealand, we toss 157,389 tonnes of food away each year, worth about $1.17 billion - in total about one-third of the food we produce. Photo credit: Supplied / Everybody Eats.

What are some of the challenges you've had to overcome to be able to work for the greater good?

 

I really believe that food is the most powerful thing we have for bringing humans together, sitting down and eating with one another is our most fundamental human activity, it is what defines us as being humans. 

It is the most incredible way to bring someone with a whole lot of money and sit them opposite someone with not much money at all and get them to engage and build trust and piece together this increasingly fragmented society that we have. 

When you're doing something you really love and you really believe in all the challenges don't really mean quite as much. It's been quite a long journey, and we certainly aren't as far along the road as we'd hope, but we've learned so many lessons and we think that we're in a pretty good position to launch with our first permanent restaurant in Onehunga. 

That really excites me and keeps me going and anything that stands in the way is not really a big deal. 

What are some long-term goals for Everybody Eats? 

 

We really want to get our first permanent restaurant off the ground, operating and making it financially sustainable. As soon as we've done that we can reach back out to all the people around New Zealand that have asked us to bring this concept to their communities. Eventually, we'd like to see Everybody Eats in every main centre. 

How can people help you? 

 

We're just like any other charity, we really need money to keep existing. $10 donated to us through our website means that we can feed three more people a three-course restaurant-quality meal. 

The best way for the public to engage with Everybody Eats is to come in and actually enjoy a meal - a lot of people think that if they come and dine with us, they're taking a meal away from a homeless person - and that's really not the case.

We really do need paying customers to come and donate whatever they can for the meal and the experience - that actually helps us to feed the people that perhaps they might think they're taking the meal away from. 

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