It was a defining moment for teenager, Julie King. Appalled at the good food wasted by the hospitality industry, she knew that one day she would use it to feed the hungry.
That was in the 1980s, around the time the first Lotto tickets went on sale.
Several decades later Julie’s vision has come to pass, literally.
She’s the founder of Love Soup, a food rescue organisation serving parts of Auckland, the Bay of Plenty and the Waikato.
Covid-19 lockdowns of the past two years have dramatically increased Love Soup’s work.
Julie says that initially it was due to panic buying around lockdown but, in the months since ,they are seeing many people for the first time.
“We are getting more and more working class poor people affected who have never had to ask for help before coming for help,” Julie says.
Working longer hours to survive
She says that rising living costs mean people are having to work longer hours to survive and, consequently, they have less time at home. This means they have less time available to cook meals from scratch.
Julie says it would be wonderful to see more families getting into growing food.
Another group she is especially concerned about is the elderly.
It’s them that need the most care; they are not young spring chickens like many of us. We need to make sure they get what their bodies need in their mature years.”
Julie experienced food shortage first-hand as a child.
Her mum was single and raising four daughters. Because she had capitalised her Family Benefit to buy a home there was little money left for groceries.
Julie remembers often going hungry, relying on charity, and even scavenging in rubbish bins.
“I learned to earn money in various ways to buy food, making crafts, collecting Coke bottles, cashing them in; selling weird stuff to neighbours and going to friends’ homes to eat.”
Love Soup was born in the Waikato community of Tokoroa after someone called for a soup kitchen to be set up.
When a Matariki event was planned for the Tokoroa Community Gardens, in July 2013, Julie took the plunge, got the word out on social media and handed out free soup.
That inspired the name Love Soup but the vision has grown to a fully-fledged food rescue group, one of many in New Zealand.
Countdown was the first business to give support to Love Soup; other supermarket chains and food supply companies followed.
Bakery products are collected daily. Love Soup also receives perishable foods and items close to their best before dates.
Following the first Covid lockdown, more donations and funding came in; that helped them grow and buy food in bulk.
“We support foodbanks and organisations that help people in need, including making school lunches, providing community meals, care packages for homeless and, over lockdown, food parcels are amped up.”
While Love Soup is based in Tokoroa, their warehouse is in Rosedale, Auckland. They also run a foodbank in Auckland’s Whangaparāoa.
Currently, Julie and her team of more than 100, are all volunteers.
“The most joyful part is sharing hope,” Julie says. She loves seeing how the volunteers thrive through supporting the organisation and the people it helps.
Establishing Love Soup also helped Julie’s own wellness plan.
After a lot of sickness and almost dying, Julie had a spiritual encounter and wanted to heal. She knew she had to live and felt impressed to fight synthetic cannabis, which led her to want to feed other people.
Soon after the opportunity came via the Tokoroa Matariki event.
Julie says the ever-increasing number of food rescue groups around New Zealand shows there is still more food to be rescued. Much of the food not rescued becomes pig food or ends up in landfills.
How can members of the public support Love Soup and other food rescue groups?
“We are a part of AFRA Aotearoa Food Rescue Alliance, where you can find a food rescue organisation listed near you; they have all the details.”
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