Tell us about why you decided to start Eat My Lunch.
Late October last year, over a couple of wines on Waiheke Island, my partner and I were reflecting on our marketing careers, pushing confectionary, chips and energy drinks. We realised that we had been selling fat, salt and sugar to the NZ public for 30 years between us. With four young children, it was ironic that the very products we had marketed so successfully were not allowed in our own home.
As parents we also couldn’t fathom that in a country like New Zealand, there were children going to school hungry. There had been so much talk about it, but it didn’t feel like anyone was actually doing anything. That night we decided to put our corporate experience to good use and start doing something that really mattered.
Eat My Lunch is a simple yet effective idea – how did you come up with it?
We wanted to give every Kiwi an easy way to get involved and create a ‘social movement’ to make a difference. I had seen other ‘one for one’ models overseas, but nothing in New Zealand and nothing that was around food. Food is so fundamental to how we all function, but especially more so for children in a learning environment. And we all eat lunch, everyday.
We also wanted the consumer to benefit from this, not just from feeling good about giving (which they can do already by just donating to a charity), but also doing good for themselves through fresh, healthy, wholesome food.
BUY ONE. GIVE ONE is the essence of Eat My Lunch: doing good, not just for yourself but also someone else through something you already do; and having an immediate and tangible impact right here in our own backyard – as you eat lunch, a child is also getting one.
Despite statistics indicating otherwise, some people still refuse to believe child poverty is a problem in New Zealand. Can you tell us a bit more about the kids you’re helping out?
We currently provide 885 lunches everyday to 20 decile 1 and 2 schools, some of which are only ten minutes drive from where we live in Mt Eden. It feels like we are only scratching the surface of the problem.
Every child who receives our lunch has their own story – being part of a family of seven children where the parents struggle to provide for everyone; a mum who has a mental disorder so making lunch is not on her list of things to do; the only thing parents are able to provide for lunch is maybe an orange or a small packet of chips; it’s just before the next pay day and the family has run out of food (and money).
Whatever the circumstance, the children that we’ve met have been so grateful about receiving the lunches. They normally struggle at first with the vegetables (some of the kids had never tried cherry tomatoes, celery or even raw carrots). But they love the freshness of the food and their favourite thing is normally a wholemeal tuna mayo sandwich with coleslaw. They do eat everything though, so it’s incredibly satisfying and something I wish my own children would do!
I love that Eat My Lunch is not just about filling hungry stomachs, but also teaching the kids about good eating habits. Some of the kids are now the health police at school, telling other kids that the bag of chips they have for lunch is ‘not healthy’.
Eat My Lunch has already garnered a lot of media attention and seems to be going from strength to strength. What are your future plans for continuing to grow the business?
Eat My Lunch has only been going since June 2015 and in 16 weeks we made over 80,000 lunches out of our own home! The next stage is to move into a bigger commercial premise so we can make and give even more lunches. Over the next six months we have a clear innovation pipeline, including the launch of a ‘Hungry’ (man-size) version of our lunch for those with bigger appetites.
Aside from supporting Eat My Lunch, what other steps do you think the general public can take to help alleviate child poverty in New Zealand?
Eat My Lunch believes that if children have the opportunity to learn and become educated, they will have a greater chance of breaking out of the poverty cycle. Whether this is through food so they can focus in class, books, learning opportunities, mentoring and support. There are many ways for people to get involved.
The most important thing is not to pass judgement. Everyone’s situation is different and people, especially children don’t choose to be in that situation.