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More queue for free meals as food prices rocket

Jul 22nd, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

A rise in food prices is one reason why people are queuing at a Wellington free store that gives out leftover food donated by local businesses.

The Free Store on Left Bank, Cuba St, has dispensed more than 12,000 items to 5500 people since opening in December, 2010.

In the last month there were 1333 customers and general manager Benjamin Johnson says there probably will be an increase in customers but “time will tell” as the rise in food prices takes its toll.

“We need to increase sponsorship so we can have customers, sponsors and volunteers all in step,” he says.

Those on low incomes say they have to make tough choices when it comes to buying food.

“Cheese has become a luxury,” says Christopher.

Rocio Reinares (30), originally from Chile, says that everything is expensive: “Even a coffee shop is expensive to go to.”

Customers come from all walks of life and many visit regularly.

Mark Swinbank (25), a traveller living in Wellington, says he visits the store because “when you don’t have much money left it’s great there’s a service that’ll give food out. It’s brilliant that it’s not going to waste.”

“You don’t need to be homeless [to qualify],” says Mr Johnson. “We [also] have lots of students that come and get food for lunch.”

Mr Johnson, who helped set up the store, says there are no criteria for customers and decisions are based on people’s needs.

The store – open five times a week, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 5pm to 7pm, and Wednesday and Friday 5.30pm to 7pm,  relies on sponsors for its food stocks.

Food varies from day to day but usually consists of a variety of sandwiches, fruit, and baked goods.

It’s a great concept,” says Cuba Street Fruit Mart’s Arrun Pancha.

We have a lot of surplus that we can’t sell. It’s good it gets to go somewhere.”

Mr Johnson says businesses support the project because they know it is important.

“The store is a mechanism for helping people in need. It’s a tool for sustainability.”

Hospitality businesses are not the only ones sponsoring the store.

The Wellington Company provides rent-free premises and Big Picture in Aro Valley provides free printing for advertising.

Last week, it was reported food prices are going up at the rate of 7.5% a year, with salad vegetables showing rises between 36% and 57%.

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is a Whitireia journalism student. Holds Bachelor of Communications, major in Journalism Studies, composite minor in Media Studies and Expressive Arts.
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