Our food rescue organisations strive to divert food waste from landfills into the plates of those who need it most.

Our organisations collect, store and distribute thousands of tonnes of good, nutritious food every year.

To check how we are doing we undertook a Social Return on Investment study this year, using three of our thirty-one organisations:

Tauranga
Palmerston North
North Canterbury
– Food Donor, Satisfy Food Rescue

By supporting and backing them, our contributions are only so much, but then it can be multiplied by the other parties.

a smiling man in front of a large crate of kiwifruit

Organisations like this are a massive connection between preventing that waste and giving it to the people that need it

– Food Donor, Good Neighbour
three Good Neighbour people showing off boxes of food

If we have product that's getting very close to its best-before-date, at our storage facility... That would have gone to landfill years ago, but now it's going to food rescue

– Food Donor, Just Zilch
a stack of pink watties boxes in a van

How do we know we're having an impact?

We measured it

And found out that for every $1 we invested in food rescue we generated $4.50 of value

an illustration of a NZ 50 cent piece

How did we get this number?

We undertook a Social Return on Investment study. It's a way to understand, measure and value impact by identifying what outcomes out activites have and using financial proxies to represent them.

A Social Return on Investment (SROI) study takes us from knowing the change we want to make to being able to provide evidence that we are making an impact.

We interview our stakeholders to identify what the outcomes of food rescue are for them and give them a dollar value.

However, an SROI is about value rather than money. Money is simply a common unit and is a practical and widely accepted way of conveying value.

Importantly, a SROI study is done by independent researchers and is checked by an assurer to make sure their calculations hold up.

Our report was assured by Social Value International

First we identified the three main models our organisations operate under. These are:

Community food hub
Free store
Mixed model food rescue

A community hub food rescue collects rescued food from donors which it then provides to the front line organisations who are giving the food out to people in need. They are the food rescue middleman.

A free store collects rescued food which is then distributed directly to food recipients. Importantly a free store creates a retail experience for food recipients. This means they can browse the shelves and select the food they need and take it free of charge.

A mixed model food rescue is like a community hub but it also adds extra activities connected to the food distribution. For example it might run a community kitchen, garden, or a social enterprise focused on reuse and recycling.

Then we chose three representative organisations and analysed their activities. We also talked to their food donors, volunteers and recipients to hear their stories.

Forty interviews were held with a variety of stakeholders including: food donors, staff, volunteers, recipient organisations and food recipients.

The positive outcomes and the shared thoughts quoted here come from these interviews.

– Food Rescue Volunteer, Satisfy Food Rescue

The first time I rescued food, it was satisfying a need in me as much as it is satisfying the people at the other end. I love the people I work with. It has fulfilled a need in me that wasn't being filled.

5 older pakeha wearing highviz in front of a satisfy van
– Food Rescue Volunteer, Good Neighbour

You ask any volunteer over there why are you coming to do this thing? It's not that they want to lift boxes of food around, they want something purposeful and meaningful to do today

Vege star staffstanding with Good Neighbour volunteers holding a box of pears
– Food Rescue Volunteer, Just Zilch

We have a ball; we laugh. Each shift has its own team; they always say, "We are the best team", but all the teams say that

A woman wearing a mask stands behind a table laden with food at the just zilch storesm

The Social Return on Investment study confirms that our work creates positive change for our:

Food donors

This group includes supermarkets, local cafes and restaurants, bakeries, and more prominent food manufacturers and producers.

Food Rescue Volunteers

This includes individuals who have made a voluntary commitment to food rescue.

Recipient Organisations

This group includes community organisations, schools, food banks and other meal providers, and healthcare and social support services, including those who are Māori and religious-affiliated.

Food Recipients

This refers to individuals and whānau (families) needing temporary or long-term food assistance.
Food recipients include a wide range of people with whom recipient organisations are working, as well as food rescue staff and, in some cases, volunteers.

Our interviews with our stakeholders helped us identify the key benefits each of them gain from participating in food rescue.

These key benefits are the outcomes we use to calculate our ratio.

a  drawing of a box of food including bread, milk, boxes and tins

Food Donors

Food donors provide surplus edible food that food rescue organisations distribute
Increased awareness of food waste and changing in store practices
Reduced waste disposal costs
Increased reputation of doing social good
Reduced environmental impact
a  drawing of a box of food including bread, milk, boxes and tins

Food Rescue
Volunteers

Volunteers do hands-on food collection, sorting and distribution
Increased social connection and community participation
Increased sense of satisfaction through helping others
a  drawing of a box of food including bread, milk, boxes and tins

Recipient
Organisations

Recipient organisations receive food and use this food to support people in need
Increased organisational capacity through access to free food
a  drawing of a box of food including bread, milk, boxes and tins

Food Recipients

Food recipients receive rescue food from recipient organisations
Increased access to a variety of free food
Increased connection to social services

You get to know a lot of people and you come in and they ask you how your weeks been.

– Food Rescue Volunteer, Just Zilch
a smiling  blond woman wearing a pink shirt seated in a mobility chair beside a shelf of bread in the just zilch store

Without food rescue 'we could not make the dinners. We could not support the people in the garden.'

– Food Rescue Volunteer, Satisfy Food Rescue
a man and woman showing trays of potatoes they are harvesting

How do we do the maths?

We add up the financial donations, and $ value of the gifted food and volunteer time. That's our investment.

We then look at our outcomes and give each one a financial proxy.  

For example our donors have reduced waste removal costs, and we know how much it costs to send food to landfill.

We put the totals against each other to get the ratio

4.50 : 1

an illustration of a NZ 50 cent piece

value generated : money invested

Email AFRA to request a copy of the report

All our programmes we deliver are free. Just Zilch allowed me to be able to do that by giving me meat, tins, spreads, and cereals, everything to feed the kids

– Recipient Organisation, Just Zilch
a smiling woman with glasses and purple flowers arms outstretched behind a trolley of lemons

We have got along just fine, but now we get along a lot better having the support of Just Zilch

Food Recipient, Just Zilch
A woman wearing a headscarf packs groceries into a box for a smiling pakeha man with dreadlocks

Sometimes people are embarrassed having to take food. They feel like they’re beggars, but they’re not. They’re just ordinary people who are going through life.

– Recipient Organisation, Just Zilch
A smiling pakeha couple holding food in the Just Zilch store

Meet our researchers

a smiling young pakeha woman with brown hair wearing a white collared shirt and blue jumper
Grace Clare
Lead Researcher,
AFRA Impact Project 
PhD student, University of Otago
Grace is doing doctoral research in food waste innovation, focusing on food rescue organisations. She will complete her PhD in 2024 and is excited to see where it takes her.
a older pakeha woman with streaked brown hair wearing glasses and a blue cardigan
Dr Louise Lee
Independent Researcher,
Wairarapa, New Zealand. 
After working as an academic at Massey University and the Open Polytechnic, Louise is now a semi-retired independent researcher, living in the Wairarapa, involved in collaborative research on food rescue and circular economy approaches to waste management.
a young pakeha man with short bleached blond hair smiling and wearing a blue tshirt
Dr Gradon Diprose
Researcher Environmental
Social Science
Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research
Gradon has a background in planning and geography. He currently works as an environmental social science researcher at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research. He is involved in research on climate change adaptation, urban wellbeing initiatives, and citizen science projects that connect people with nature.

Learn more about our 3 example organisations

Tauranga
Palmerston North
North Canterbury

This is the change AFRA is working towards

The Aotearoa Food Rescue Alliance (AFRA) supports and advocates for members and the food rescue sector.

In the last year (2021-2022) AFRA members reported that collectively they:
Rescued 7,641,627 kgs of food.
Distributed 10,231,478 kgs of food.
The total distributed is the equivalent of 29,262,027 meals with an estimated retail value of $76,633,770.
This was distributed to over 1000 charities across Aotearoa.
Of the food rescued, this saved an estimated 20,250 tons of CO2 equivalent and 6,342,550,410 litres of water.

In the last year AFRA members have:

Rescued

an illustration of an NZ one dollar coin in grey
$ 76,633,770
Dollars worth of good nutritious food from landfill.

Saved

an illustration of a globe coloured green and blue with NZ centre bottom
20,250,312
Kgs of CO2 (e) going into the atmosphere.

Delivered

an illustration of a plate of food with an egg, sausages, chips and vegetables
10,231,478
Kgs of food to people who need it.

Provided

an illustration of a heart in a green circle
29,262,027
Meals into our community.

Diverted

an illustration of a drop of water in a blue circle
6,342,550,410
Litres of water from going down the drain.

Learn more about Aotearoa Food Rescue Alliance