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Hon. Louise Upston Officially Opens New NZ Food Network Premises To Combat Food Insecurity

Hon Louise Upston, NZFN event. Photo/Supplied

Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Minister for Social Development and Employment, and Minister for Child Poverty Reduction, Louise Upston, visited the New Zealand Food Network (NZFN) this week to officially open their new premises and warehouse in Penrose.

This visit underscored her support for NZFN’s mission to address food insecurity, a growing issue highlighted by their latest Food Security Snapshot survey. The survey revealed a staggering 42% increase in demand for food support in 2023 compared to 2022, and an 83% increase from 2021. The surge in demand is primarily due to the rising cost of living, which has put NZFN’s partner Food Hubs under increasing pressure as more and more Kiwis families struggle to put enough food on the table.

NZFN has been working tirelessly to respond to this demand, with funding secured from the Ministry of Social Development in June 2023 extending until June 2025.

Since its inception in June 2020, NZFN has distributed over 27.3 million kilograms of product, the equivalent of over 65.6 million meals to Food Hubs across the country. Much of the food is rescued and diverted from going to landfill, avoiding over 40 million kilograms of CO2 equivalent from reaching the atmosphere. NZFN currently supports over 655,000 individuals per month via their 63 nationwide Food Hubs.

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The Minister toured the new premises, 130% larger than the previous East Tamaki location, which has enabled NZFN to scale up their distribution and logistical capabilities. The expanded warehouse includes a new walk-in chiller and freezer, as well as a vibrant mural in the volunteering space, symbolising connection and community.

With the increased capacity, NZFN has strengthened partnerships with organisations such as the Salvation Army, Auckland City Mission, and The Period Place, providing more efficient storage and distribution services.

During the event, the Minister shared her support for NZFN’s operations and mission.

"The cost of living at the moment means that there are New Zealanders today who are having to approach organisations for assistance for food who have never had to do that before. Through extensive partnerships, 655,000 people every month are serviced out of [NZFN’s] complex. That is an extraordinary number."

"Prime Minister Chris Luxon often talks about the three actors in society: government, community and business working together to have a greater impact. That’s exactly what this facility embodies, and by leveraging each part of the system, an even greater impact can be delivered. And we know that food rescue has a great return on social investment - the research from University of Otago says that every dollar invested in food rescue will generate $4.50 of value - so I’m delighted to be here today to officially open this wonderful premises that is meaning more New Zealanders are getting fed when they need it most."

NZFN Chief Executive, Gavin Findlay, shared his gratitude for the Minister's visit and the support received.

“We’re grateful to Minister Upston for joining us today. This warehouse and the fantastic facilities are something that the whole NZFN team is really proud of. We were excited to show the Minister our increased scale of operations and how Government funding and corporate partnership can work together to deliver better outcomes for Kiwis families in need.

“Bringing together some of our most valued corporate donors, recipient Food Hubs, supporters, and staff was a reminder of the real difference we are making in communities across the country. The support and funding from the Ministry of Social Development is crucial to our ongoing success and with continued support, we know we can continue to make a significant impact on the lives of those in need.”

Delphina Soti, Tumuaki / General Manager of St Vincent De Paul Tāmaki Makaurau spoke about the impact of their partnership with NZFN on her community.

"Food insecurity is a distribution problem, it’s an awareness problem, it’s a sovereignty problem. We don’t want to take away the sovereignty from our people to be part of the solution so that’s why we love places like this.

“Prior to Covid, our little food bank only gave out somewhere around 100 parcels in a month. When MSD came along with the NZ Food Network, we were able to up the amount of people we were able to support. So, I want to say that this relationship matters because it actually puts food on the table. I love how you’ve made food support visible, because it was invisible before."

Other speakers included Simon Tucker - Director of Global Sustainability, Stakeholder Affairs and Trade at donor partner Fonterra, Kyrin Gourley - Supply Chain Business Manager at Foodstuffs South Island, and Leigh Hart - ambassador for NZFN’s Pitch In campaign.

All of the guests enjoyed morning tea together with a chance to connect and celebrate the new facility, sharing the mission of getting good food to where it’s needed most.

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