KiwiHarvest founder receives prestigious award

Deborah Manning is the founder of New Zealand’s largest food rescue organisation, KiwiHarvest.

The founder of KiwiHarvest has won an award for her efforts and impacts in aiding the environment and communities.

Deborah Manning, whose Auckland headquarters are in Highbrook, started KiwiHarvest from the boot of her car 10 years ago.

Originally a lawyer, Manning changed careers when she realised that she wanted to focus on ‘significance’ rather than ‘success’.

“I was driven to make a difference for vulnerable people in Aotearoa and for our fragile environment,” Manning, who lives in Dunedin, said.

The idea was, she said, that if she used excess food that was still good to eat but was going to be thrown out to feed those in need, she could be ‘solving two problems with one solution’.

She spent four months researching ‘food rescue’ and speaking to businesses and groups who might donate excess food or need food for their food support programmes (foodbanks, community meals, shelters etc.).

“Once I understood what was needed to collect, store and transport perishable, chilled, frozen and fresh food, I simple started doing it in my own car,” she said.

Since then, KiwiHarvest has grown from a single person operation to a national organisation with branches across the country. They provide food to organisations in the community working at the coal face of hunger and deprivation, Manning said, which in turn reduces their food budget so “they can spend their precious funds on the other programmes they offer”.

Her efforts towards reducing food waste and aiding in food insecurity was recognized in the 2022 Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year Award, which is given to those “taking extraordinary action to better out communities and nation”.

“I was completely taken by surprise,” Manning said.

“There are so many people in both KiwiHarvest and the New Zealand Food Network (NZFN) who contribute to our success. The award is very special – as are they.”

KiwiHarvest has now provided the equivalent of 20 million meals from rescued food for people across Aotearoa.

Manning told the Times that KiwiHarvest works hard to protect the environment by redistributing food that might otherwise end up in landfill which creates greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, KiwiHarvest works with groups like Aotearoa Food Rescue Alliance (AFRA), Kore Hiakai and the Ministry of Social Development.

“The goal is to do ourselves out of a job,” Manning said. “No food waste, no food poverty would be the ideal result.”

The next focus for KiwiHarvest is on the education pillar, Manning said.

“We want to get out into the community to tell our story and encourage people to reduce food waste and eat healthily,” she said.