Volunteers ensure fresh fare for the table

FoodTogether acting co-ordinator Greg Edmeades (blue shirt) helping volunteers unload the produce.

Cambridge’s FoodTogether programme is helping an increasing number of families access seasonal fruit and vegetables.

Cambridge is one of around 40 community hubs around New Zealand operating under the banner of the national social enterprise, FoodTogether.  They supply packs of fresh produce, pre-ordered online at www.foodtogether.co.nz and delivered to a central point in each community. From there, they are repacked according to customer requirements ready for collection or delivery.

Locally, that activity takes place at the Cambridge Baptist Church Hall. The church helps support the initiative and volunteers spend several hours there each Thursday morning sorting, packing and then sharing morning tea. They’ve been doing it for over three years, much of it under the stewardship of Greg Edmeades, acting co-ordinator for FoodTogether Cambridge.

“Anybody can come and buy through us. The produce is bulk-sourced in the Waikato wherever possible, and is available wholesale,” Greg explained. “Our goal is to provide nutritious and fresh produce to Cambridge residents at prices which average 40 percent less than those of retail outlets. We achieve this by supplying lines of fruit and vegetables when their seasonal price is low.”

Orders come in four sizes, based on quantity and variety and ranging in price from $10 to $36.50. Once they are re-packed, clients generally collect from the church or pay a token charge to have it delivered.

A recent development is the reintroduction of gift orders, which are donated by clients to help families who may be facing budget difficulties.

A bustling morning at the Baptist Church hall with FoodTogether volunteers busy repacking the produce.

“About 10 percent of what we pack now are gift orders … we’re keen to let people know that we offer that option,” said Greg. “A gift bag could represent a saving of between 30 and 50 percent for some families. That’s significant.”

Cambridge Baptist Church pastor Jonathan Ruthven is often there to help where he can. He said unlike some socially-based programmes, FoodTogether had the advantage of appealing to all. “We’ve been hosting it here for over three years. I think it’s reached close to 170 orders on occasions. It’s a great thing for us to be a part of.”

Cambridge Community House (CCH) works with FoodTogether to provide fresh fruit and vegetables to families who may otherwise go without. Sometimes they receive additional produce, perhaps as a gift order, or if there are any leftover packs once distribution is over.

CCH manager Harriet Dixon said: “We give that fresh food to families in need of support. It’s great to see our community pulling together to provide for those in need; working with Greg and his team has been good for our community. We are going to start a new way of working together, to provide discount boxes for the pensioners in council housing.”

Greg said more volunteers were needed for the Thursday morning sessions. “This is a great gathering place for anyone new to the community, or for people looking for fun and friendship, while making life a bit easier for their neighbours.”

More information is from Greg (823 0918), or from the Cambridge Baptist Church (827 6490).

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