Meet Nick Loosley from Everybody Eats
The amount of food waste in New Zealand is tragic, but it becomes truly heartbreaking when you also look at the scale of food poverty too. Everybody Eats, a not-for-profit, founded by Nick Loosley and works to combat food waste and alleviate food poverty by providing a nutritious three-course meal to Kiwis who often have to go without, using food that would otherwise be thrown away.
Everybody Eats started with a pay-as-you-feel pop-up restaurant at Gemmayze St in St Kevins Arcade and has since opened pop-up restaurants in Onehunga, Wellington and Papamoa. Its impact has been significant; to date, Everybody Eats has made and served more than 55,000 meals and saved over 40 tonnes of food from landfill in the meantime.
We recently caught up with Nick to discuss Everybody Eats and the launch of The Goodie Box, a new fundraising initiative designed to encourage restaurant-goers to be more conscious about leftovers.
Hey Nick, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Firstly, could you please give us a bit of background about yourself?
I am the Founder and GM of Everybody Eats. I have been working in hospitality for most of my adult life. I also have two restaurants in Russell - The Gables and Hone's Garden. I became fascinated with food and the food system through owning restaurants and seeing some of the glaring issues we have. For about the last ten years I have been exploring ways we can address these issues and also how we can use food as a tool to create positive outcomes for people and communities.
What inspired you to start Everybody Eats?
The main inspiration for Everybody Eats came from two projects I volunteered in the UK whilst doing research for a Masters in Green Economics. The Real Junk Food Project and Food Cycle were both effectively using surplus or rescued food to feed vulnerable people.
Everybody Eats is an adaptation of these concepts, focusing more heavily on giving as many people as possible access to the incredible atmosphere of a busy restaurant and the dignity and respect that one feels when being served by someone who truly cares about us and our experience.
What is the vision/purpose of Everybody Eats?
Everybody Eats aims to help reduce food waste, food poverty and social isolation in New Zealand.
How many people would you say you have helped through Everybody Eats?
So far we've served over 55,000 meals, saved over 40 tonnes of food from landfill and engaged over 3,000 volunteers. It's very difficult to measure how many friendships have been formed and meaningful connections made but we know it happens, we see it every day.
How do you reach people and how can they access your services?
We have restaurants in Auckland City, Onehunga, Papamoa and Wellington. They all operate from 6-8 pm and provide 3-course, set menu, plated restaurant meals on a pay-as-you-feel / koha basis. Everyone is welcome! You just need to show up.
You recently launched Everybody Eats The Goodie Box. Could you please tell us about this project?
The Goodie Box is an initiative we hope will create behaviour change, reduce food waste and help to raise money so Everybody Eats can grow. Doggy bags were once common in NZ, but over the last 10 or so years they aren't seen much anymore. We want to change that, not only because we know food waste is such a huge environmental problem but also because we hate to see the hard work that farmers and chefs put into creating delicious plates of food just for it to go in the bin.
How will the money raised through The Goodie Box help Everybody Eats?
Every $5 we raise through Goodie Box will allow us to provide one of our restaurant meals to a customer that cannot afford to pay. This could be someone sleeping rough, a struggling single parent or anyone else finding it difficult to access good food.
Who can utilise The Goodie Box?
Any restaurant, cafe or hospitality establishment that provides plated meals. We want this to become a national movement and The Goodie Box to become a common item people use regularly.
What is the future of The Goodie Box?
At the moment we are busy signing up new establishments and hope to have 100 onboard by the end of April. There is no planned ending to the Goodie Box. We see no reason why this cannot continue forever.
What about the future of Everybody Eats?
Unfortunately, we have food waste, food poverty and social isolation problems across New Zealand meaning there is a need for our model in all of the main centres. This year we are expanding our Wellington operation to three nights per week and hoping to open another permanent restaurant in Auckland. From there we plan to continue our growth, with restaurants in the South Island as well.
Since starting Everybody Eats, have you seen much change in others' approach to Food Poverty and homelessness?
The main thing I have seen since starting Everybody Eats is a change in attitude towards how we help vulnerable people with food. This comes in many forms including - the quality of food we provide, the type of experience and the extent to which we include other people in the experience. We're proud to have inspired people to think differently about these things.
There appears to be a lot of different charities, organisations and individuals supporting the homeless community which is pleasing, but we need to focus on the systemic issues - racism, mental health support, house prices etc if we are going to really address this.
What would your advice be to someone struggling to pay for food?
This is a very difficult question to answer because everyone in this unfortunate circumstance is different. Some people struggling to pay for food will have other issues getting in the way of them accessing help.
In saying that I'd recommend they find a list of meals or services available in their area, an example is Community Meals and remember that accessing these services and meals is not a scary and demeaning experience. 1 in 5 Kiwis are now struggling to adequately feed themselves, so this is a normal thing.
At Everybody Eats for example there are no questions asked, we treat everyone the same, whether they look like they are struggling or they are wearing a suit. The people volunteering at ours and other meals are incredible people who want to help. It is an incredibly supportive environment and a great community feel.
Other than purchasing The Goodie Box and donating via the QR code, what are other ways that people can get involved and support Everybody Eats?
The best ways to get involved are to dine and volunteer at our restaurants. Our meals are restaurant quality and the experience is positive and uplifting. Volunteering is easy, fun and can be for only three hours at a time - Click here for more info and register as a volunteer. If people aren't able to do either, please donate and use the Goodie Box in your favourite restaurants.
Everybody Eats also focuses on food waste, what advice would you give to other individuals and businesses about reducing their food waste?
Food waste is a massive problem. Humans waste 1/3 of the food we produce. If global food waste was a country it would be the third-largest emitter of Greenhouse Gases after the US and China. We need to take this very seriously.
For individuals, we've been told about this so many times and it hasn't necessarily created any behaviour change, particularly for wealthy people, food is unfortunately disposable. For this to really change I truly believe people need to reconnect with our food, by visiting farms, volunteering at community gardens or growing our own produce. It is only once we understand what goes into it that we will appreciate it.
For businesses, there is a huge incentive to reduce food waste which means many are already doing the right thing. Unfortunately composting has become a really easy way for businesses to wipe their hands of their food waste. Composting is great, but there are actually better ways to repurpose left over food - The food recovery hierarchy is a helpful tool to understand this better.
The Goodie Box offers diners a specially-designed compostable ‘doggy bag’, to take home any delicious leftovers and in exchange, diners will be asked to make a small donation of $5 to Everybody Eats.
This initiative launched earlier this month with Innocent Packaging compostable takeaway boxes now available at some of the best restaurants in around New Zealand, including Non-Solo Pizza, Culprit, Williams Eatery, The Engine Room in Auckland, Mr Gos, Field & Green in Wellington, Black Barn in Hawke’s Bay, Gatherings in Christchurch and more.
To learn more or get Goodie Boxes in your restaurant, go to goodie.co.nz and let's beat food waste and food poverty together.