On The House on pause until new home is found

A non-profit organisation is set to temporarily shut its doors until it can source a new venue and a new coordinator.

On The House – a free food store that redistributes surplus food to those in need – has operated once a week for two years out of a garage in New Plymouth’s CBD.

But co-founder Rebekah Bell says the volunteer-led group has grown beyond their current premises and plans to pause on reopening in the new year.

“We have simply outgrown our current premises. We always knew this would happen at some point,” Bell says.

“The Taranaki community have really embraced the ‘No Food Waste, Lots of Taste’ ethos. We are now bursting at the seams with rescued kai and need more space so we can really expand and get the food out to more community groups and people in need.”

On The House co-founder Rebekah Bell

Bell will also be stepping down as the main coordinator in order to spend more time with family and focus on her yoga studio, Alchemy Yoga & Wellbeing.

“Leading and coordinating On The House has morphed into a full-time job,” she says.

“It has taken a huge amount of energy and sacrifice to build something from nothing. There are a lot of balls to juggle to keep things running and it’s time for someone else to step in and take it forward with fresh eyes energy and smarts.

“As On The House has become busier and busier it has taken up a lot of time. My whānau have been amazing at supporting and working alongside me to make things happen, but it is time to step back and pass the baton to someone else.”

Bell says the organisation has “always been about building community with a culture of care” and she is thrilled to soon create a paid coordinator role.

Since it’s opening, On The House has saved thousands of food items from ending up in landfills, while feeding hundreds of people each week.

The non-profit is run by about 35 volunteers who do everything from collect food from suppliers to serving the public, to forging new relations with restaurants and cafes in town.

“We are now part of the fabric of the New Plymouth community and love being able to provide this service to both suppliers looking to reduce waste, and those in need of some quality tucker.”

“Many volunteers and suppliers have stepped up week after week for two years now. From pick-up drivers to food servers, food packers, and those who keep our shift humming week after week. It’s just brilliant.”

Bell is seeking further assistance from the community to help source a new venue to keep On The House going, and hopes once a venue is found, she can find a keen coordinator ready to jump in and take the lead.

“We have spent time creating and developing systems and future-proofing so anyone can come in, pick up the reins and take it forward. It would suit someone who is comfortable keeping a few balls in the air and has an eye for details. That next someone will have a natural knack for organising and coordinating, will get satisfaction from problem solving and a job well done.”

Alongside being able to manage people, Bell says the next coordinator must be innovative and be able to “seize the day and run with it.”

“There are lots of creative ways On The House could expand in the future,” she says.

“It’s sure a lot of fun and the possibilities for growth are exciting.”

Bell says the organisation is on the cusp of becoming a trust, which will open up major funding opportunities.

This funding would help pay for the full-time coordinator amongst other desired outcomes, she says.

However Bell says the Charities Services have a backlog and it could take up to four months to be finalised.

“I will be one of the trustees so I can step back and grow the vision while supporting that someone to take things forward. It’s been a tough year and I have suffered personal loss, so it’s time to get some balance back. There have been a lot of friendships formed in the line each week, so I’ll be around to chew the fat once in a while on the roster.”

On The House’s last day of 2019 is Thursday December 19, 4:30 to 5:30pm. The reopening for 2020 is unknown at this stage.

Words by Brittany Baker