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'NZ Food Heroes' campaign takes off

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Thousands of free-range chooks have been able to keep on laying rather than getting laid off due to lockdown. It’s just one of the heart-warming stories shared in the ‘NZ Food Heroes’ campaign.

From baking to business models - nominations for the NZ Food Heroes Award are flooding in. Diverse in nature, the entries all reflect the Kiwi brand of innovation and community spirit that has flourished during the COVID-19 crisis ensuring New Zealand has access to fresh, local produce.

Nominee Olliff Farm north of Auckland faced a dilemma. With 95 per cent of their pasture eggs supplying high-end Auckland restaurants and cafes in normal times, lockdown restrictions presented a complete loss of business income. Their 3500 feathered ‘employees’ needed to be fed as they continued to lay eggs daily, so the company (a 2019 New Zealand Food Awards finalist) had no time to waste in finding alternative outlets for their eggs. They flipped their business model and launched the "SAVE OUR GIRLS" mission to protect their hens and to help feed Kiwis during lockdown by delivering directly to customers or selling from their farm store in Silverdale.

Since the campaign kicked off three weeks ago, there have been over 230 nominations celebrating people and businesses across New Zealand. Organisers are urging more people to nominate their food heroes. The campaign was launched by the New Zealand Food Awards in place of their usual programme as a way for Kiwis to show their appreciation and support for the numerous Heroes across all sectors of the food and beverage industry who have to keep our hunger at bay.

Among the latest nominees is Jackie Lee Morrison, British pastry chef and owner of artisan sweet treat company Lashings, who coordinated the Pandemic Pack in Wellington. Jackie formed a group of 15 local eateries impacted by COVID-19 to create a cook book with recipes from each establishment which was sold to the public as a ‘pay-what-you-can’ deal. At alert level 3 she began a food delivery service where people could order meals from the Pandemic Pack in one place. This helped each food establishment to earn over $1000 to help with the extra expenses over the lockdown.

Jackie has been described as "a fantastic and innovative business woman who always puts her community first. She is a leader and a wonderful human being. She is an absolute asset to our industry and community."

Auckland’s Bread and Butter Bakery and Café in Grey Lynn displayed food heroism by pivoting from supplying restaurants and cafes and operating their own cafes to partnering with growers from the Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market to provide essential food boxes to people in the local community. Their enterprise helped growers, whose eggs, milk and veggies would otherwise have gone to waste, and provided a valued service to customers who enjoyed being able to buy fresh produce from small, local producers.

Isabel Pasch from Bread and Butter Bakery says, "the true heroes of this story are my staff, who worked and put themselves out there to bake bread every day during lockdown, pack boxes, and deliver them".

And KiwiHarvest worked with NZ Pork and the Ministry for Primary Industries during lockdown to, literally, save our bacon. KiwiHarvest collects surplus food from supermarkets, wholesalers, producers, cafes, restaurants and hotels before it goes to waste to give to those in need, so when COVID-19 restrictions resulted in excess pork, they delivered the pork to New Zealand’s food banks.

In the non-edible arena, the Restaurant Association has been nominated for its support to the hospitality sector, providing up-to-date information, supporting business owners to navigate the challenges and uncertainties of lockdown with training material to keep staff engaged, legal advice and information zoom sessions.

Still time to nominate your food hero

Massey University’s National Events and Sponsorship Manager, Kelly Douglas, is encouraging more Kiwis from across New Zealand to get involved and share who they would like to celebrate. "The New Zealand Food Awards, Massey University and our partner network have been amazed by the efforts of our community to help Kiwis and businesses survive this challenging time and we believe they deserve recognition.

"We’ve had a great response so far, but we reckon there are plenty more heroes NZ would like to thank. So tell us who they are. We’ll be giving a bit of love back to the New Zealand food heroes you nominate."

Nominations are open until the 31st July 2020 for people or organisations that have supported the New Zealand food and beverage supply chain in some way. The finalists will be announced 31st August, with a celebration and winners announcement on the 8th October 2020.

Nominate your food hero online at by telling us who they are and why they are your hero. People are encouraged to ‘shout out’ to them on social media using #NZFoodHeroes and #NZFoodAwards so that the New Zealand Food Awards can help the rest of Aotearoa celebrate them too.

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