Meet the Humans of Kaibosh – stories about the amazing people who contribute to our collective mahi!
– by Louise Hammersley.
Every Tuesday, a team of five Lower Hutt residents gather at Kaibosh’s Hutt Valley depot in Petone, rolling up their sleeves to sort up to 1 tonne of surplus food which has been rescued that morning.
“Sometimes you see very strange combinations of things and it’s like a MasterChef mystery box!”
This efficient team have become great friends and include two of our original Hutt volunteers, our OG Kaibosh Hutt Valley crew.
Name: Tuesday Food Sort Team, Kaibosh Hutt Valley
Amongst all the laughter (both with and at each other), Tuesday food sort volunteers assure me that they’re the best team (but every Kaibosh team seems to say that). This group consists of four to six volunteers whose role is to quality control the rescued food. Amidst the joking and banter, there is a real heart to this group, brought about by the commonality of a shared mission to end food poverty and food waste. The friends carefully sort rescued food for quality. Packing the produce, meat, dairy and more into boxes ready for distribution out to around 50 Hutt Valley community groups and charities.
This team knows the correct protocols and procedures to follow and enjoy getting the job done. The original volunteers comment about how the Kaibosh policies have grown and evolved over time with the food rescue charity. But the one golden rule that stays the same through the years: ‘Don’t ever put anything in the box that you wouldn’t eat yourself.’
As the team gets busy sorting over 800kg of rescued food, they are quick to locate the dates on the food packaging and check Kaibosh’s food safety poster up on the wall.
“You need to get your eye for things and be able to judge instantly – is this broccoli dead or alive? Is it usable or not.”
We talk about how they heard about food rescue and got started – it turns out several already knew each other outside of Kaibosh, through different community groups. They say that once you’re into something, it’s quite easy to bump into people with similar interests: “Making a connection is quite easy, because you’re already halfway there.”
The Tuesday Hutt team are unified in their view that Kaibosh does as much for the volunteers as it does for their recipient charities. They talk about how it is quite different to traditional paid labour.
“Coming along and volunteering and working and getting paid nothing – I don’t even think about that because I really enjoy what I’m doing.”
Tuesday’s Hutt team stated their motivations for volunteering at Kaibosh being to help the community and the planet. A few other reasons crop up, including how well Kaibosh organises and facilitates its network of volunteers, and what the work entails – the sorting of food.
The team comment that the work isn’t too physically demanding and has a regular schedule once a week, which makes it accessible for people of different ages. They also like that it’s mentally stimulating enough with a fun team and great banter.
The diversity of people involved at Kaibosh is also mentioned. Tuesday crew say this is a positive compared with other places they have volunteered. They say Kaibosh operates as a real team who cares, becoming a support network for them as individuals when they need a little extra help. The positivity, flexibility, collaboration and support from staff encourages them to keep coming back.
Beyond volunteering, they say that Kaibosh cements for them what community should be. Pete puts this into words, as the team nods:
“We all have these busy lives and probably for us we’ve had, you know, privileged lives. To be able to then realise… there’s a whole lot of people existing in a different situation, and this is the conduit that can bridge that gap. I think that’s really important. It’s a real consciousness raising thing for us all.”
These volunteers say that from what they have witnessed the need for kai in the community has only grown. When Kaibosh started 15 years ago they were collecting 50 tonnes a year, to now in 2023 and its 70 tonnes a month across three sites. This is good edible food which, without Kaibosh’s intervention, would be sent to landfill or to feed pigs. Kaibosh is currently partnered with 140 local charities and community groups who receive kai to distribute to people in need across the Greater Wellington Region – from Te Whanganui a Tara to Kāpiti-Horowhenua and including more than 50 local charities in Te Awa Kairangi.
Being at Kaibosh has also made this team question food production methods. The large surpluses of certain types of food which can come through has them wondering what outside influence may have caused the excess of stock. Could it be after a public holiday, or weather events?
“Remember just after Mother’s Day when we got boxes and boxes of heart-shaped camembert?”
With many years of food rescue and food sorting experience, this team has become extremely knowledgeable on how and why certain food reaches Kaibosh. The boxes of sorted mixed food often contain slightly odd combinations of food – camembert with kiwifruit for instance, or exotic foods some team members have never seen before.
“Sometimes you see very strange combinations of things and it’s like it’s like a MasterChef mystery box!”
One thing they universally agree on is how alarming all the plastic packaging is.
“You’ll get a whole packet of something with one spoiled element, and that means that whole packet has been thrown out at the store. Well, we can save that. We just split the packet, take out the bad one, use the rest.”
Volunteering at Kaibosh has shaped their perception of food waste. One of the team was inspired to set up a better composting system at home, others talk about how it has influenced what they choose to buy and how they manage or preserve leftover food.
This team say they now hold themselves accountable and are role models in their own homes – some now even look at the carbon footprint of everything they buy and consume.
“The impact it’s had on me is at that front end, it’s what I buy. It’s really a very conscious thing. Every purchase is sort of a moral decision, really.”
Keen to reduce food waste in your whāre? Our Hutt Valley crew share their tips.
If you, or your neighbours have a lot of fruit growing at your place – too much to use – ask Community Fruit Wellington to help you pick it! They pass it on to us so we can distribute fresh fruit to people who need it most in our communities.
Read more installments in our Humans of Kaibosh blog series.
Find out more about volunteering at Kaibosh.