North Canterbury food rescue project helping locals get through the cost of living crisis

A north Canterbury food rescue project is helping locals get through the cost of living crisis.

The partnership combines the efforts of the local Lions Club and a high school to get kai to people who need it most.

Oxford and District Lions Club treasurer Neville Major-Johnston and Geoff are giving up their time to give back to their community.

"I just put my hand up and said I have land available just like Geoff and we would like to help out," said Major-Johnston.

Oxford and District Lions Club members have been growing produce to donate to Satisfy Food Rescue.

"It's getting close to 17 tonnes of produce over about a year and a half," Major-Johnston said.

The collaboration between growers and the food rescuers started when the pandemic hit - and it's been a great success.

"It also involves more of our members than any other project has, teenagers to people in their eighties," Major-Johnston said.

The produce is sliced and wrapped, then collected by Satisfy Food Rescue.

"Over the last seven years we have distributed over 2 million meals. In the last two years we have distributed 1 million, so half of what we've done has been in the last two years," said Satisfy Food Rescue operations coordinator Cameron Crawley.

Nationwide demand for food support has skyrocketed since COVID-19 hit.

The Ministry of Social Development has recorded an increase of more than 140,000 special needs grants for food from 2019 to 2021.

Auckland City Mission has handed out three times the amount of food parcels in 2021 than it did in 2019. And Christchurch City Mission says demand for food support is up by 30 percent.

"The COVID situation caused a massive spike in demand and we realised the district is not as secure as what they thought they might be in a situation which was unexpected," said Rachel Thornton.

Food Secure North Canterbury reached out to Kaiapoi High School to see if they could help process produce.

"Last year we made lasagnas, this year we've done peaches, bottled pears and feijoa jam and this week we're doing pumpkin soup," said Kaiapoi High School head of hospitality Andrea Preston.

It's a win-win for all.

"They're using products that are in season and they're helping their community at the same time, while they're still learning skills about what they could do at their own home," Preston said.

The food's returned to Satisfy Food Rescue and taken to food banks across the district.

"We're a small community here at Kaiapoi, we all need to help out each other," Preston said.

A collaboration with community at its heart.