Buying fresh grows friendly communities

July 28, 2017

A bid to get more people eating fruit and veg – at discount prices – is building communities and Christian interdenominational networks throughout NZ.

Now the Food Together programme is spreading to Taranaki with the cathedral pivotal to its local distribution.

It started as a three-week pilot in June, and has now become a permanent social enterprise in the region.

It works like this: People view the fruit and veg menu each Friday on the Food Together Facebook page, place their order by the following Wednesday, and pick up their fresh goodies on a Thursday. For further details see

Pick up points are at six New Plymouth and Bell Block churches, with the people ‘staffing’ the enterprise local volunteers.

There are three different-sized bags or boxes to choose from, each containing seasonal fruit and veg, brought from the same wholesalers that fruit stores buy from (ranging in price from $15 up to $36).

Anyone can purchase – it’s not targeted for example at low-income families or the elderly.

Approximately 50% of the profits are returned to the local communities in which the programme runs.

Lance Pilbrow is spearheading the New Plymouth roll-out of Food Together. He says he got involved because he saw great benefits for communities, and it was a model already working well in other parts of the country.

Food Together started 20 years ago in a partnership between the Christchurch Anglican diocese and the local district health board. After the Canterbury earthquakes, however, the need became more pronounced. People needed fresh fruit and veg as well as cohesive community support to deal with ongoing trauma.

Today the social enterprise is active in 10 centres. Locally, the Bishop’s Action Foundation is a key partner although Food Together works across all churches.

Volunteers pack bags and boxes at the cathedral on Thursday morning while shoppers collect (home deliveries are done for an extra charge) in the afternoon.

The other churches involved are Northpoint and St Luke’s in Bell Block, Holy Trinity Fitzroy, St Chad’s West New Plymouth and West Baptist on South Rd.

Says Lance: “We exist because we believe that we need to bring people together and create stronger communities - healthy food is one tool to do that. We believe that all New Zealanders should have access to well-priced fruit and veg.”

In time the programme hopes to also help those in financial hardship, or others who have been referred through an agency such as budgeting services.

Locally its team is aiming for about 200 boxes to be ordered each week.

Food Together is a social enterprise not one driven by profit, making it different from other food delivery initiatives such as My Food Bag, which is a business.

“The big goal is to build a network across New Zealand, build the programme’s processes and systems so we can deliver the full model on steroids,” says Lance.

Each community decides where the social returns are spent – it might be sports and schools or other charitable groups or fundraisers.

Churches often have good networks, particularly in rural areas. They have the bricks and mortar, are centrally located and there is no reason why they couldn’t evolve into centres for a range of essential services. It’s church with a fresh focus!

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