Monday, April 22, 2024

Church chips in to help people access affordable food

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Driving St Columba Presbyterian Church’s participation in the Foodtogether initiative are, from left, Barton Blair, John Cook, Ngaire Leaning, Lynley Scott and Sandy Macfarlane. Times photo Wayne Martin

How does a large bag full of fresh fruit and vegetables for just $15 sound?

That’s what an east Auckland church is serving up as a way to give locals access to affordable food.

St Columba Presbyterian Church in Botany recently got involved with the Foodtogether initiative, a New Zealand social enterprise founded by a vicar as a way to “improve accessibility and affordability of healthy fresh produce”.

It’s run at locations around the country by non-Governmental organisations, churches, community groups and schools.

St Columba’s participation in Foodtogether is co-ordinated by Lynley Scott and her father John Cook with help from a group of keen volunteers.

“It was something we felt we could do and we had the space and the people,” Scott told the Times.

“We knew of other places that had been accessing it or had been offering this sort of thing so we looked into it and found Foodtogether.”

Each Wednesday morning the church’s volunteers fill the bags with fresh fruit and veggies.

They can be pre-booked and are sold for $15 but have an estimated value of about $23-28.

People then drop in to collect their order from 11.30 to 1pm the same day.

Among the items the bags may contain are cabbages, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, bananas, watermelons, plums and apples.

“And then there’s add-ons like blueberries, rock melon, lettuce and cherry tomatoes,” Scott says.

“Occasionally we’ll have eggs, which are way cheaper than in the supermarket.”

Scott says the church gets a list of what will be in that week’s bag on a Monday and posts it on its Facebook page.

People need to pre-order a bag by Tuesday lunchtime to guarantee they’ll get one the next day.

They can also choose to drop in on Wednesday morning without pre-ordering if they prefer.

Scott says the church sells 30-40 bags of food per week but is keen to do more.

“The reason we loved this model is it’s for everyone. It’s not just for people who can’t afford [to shop elsewhere].

“We’ve had some people come through who are struggling to afford things but everyone wants to be able to support local.”

A lot of people will buy one bag for the week while those with bigger families buy two, she says.

“Some people find this is their primary shop and then they’ll add on additional things from their local fruit and veggie shop. We’re seeing a lot of people buying two, with one to give away.

“If they know someone who’s going through a rough time or struggling financially, we’re seeing people buying two bags because they feel it’s an easy, practical, cost-effective way to bless someone else.”

The church’s minister, Reverend Caleb Hardie, says it wants to be a place not just for worship “but also somewhere people can gather during the week for a sense of community”.

“The food pop-up is a great opportunity for that. It’s a practical need and it provides fruit and vegetables at a more affordable price, which we can all do with.”

He says the church’s Foodtogether volunteers are a friendly group and the system is straightforward.

“If they want to talk to someone they can but they’re coming here for fruit and veggies and a smiling face.

“There’s no expectation from us for this to be anything more than that.”

People and businesses who want to support St Columba’s participation in Foodtogether can contact Lynley Scott via the church on 09 274 4864 or email

The church’s Foodtogether Facebook page is at To order a bag of fruit and veggies, go online to

Another Foodtogether pop-up operates from 2-4pm each Friday at 59 Third View Avenue, Beachlands.

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