A first of its kind supermarket opened in Wellington, New Zealand on March 16, 2021 thanks to the efforts of the Wellington City Mission and the supermarket chain New World. The social supermarket is just like any other supermarket, with fruits and vegetables, sanitary products, pasta, cheese and baked beans lined up along the aisles. While it has the look and feel of a regular supermarket, this store has no prices, all the food is free.
This new market is a big shift from the traditional model of people who are food insecure receiving ready-made parcels because it gives people the dignity of being able to choose their own food. In a time when food insecurity is on the rise in New Zealand, the new social supermarket will go a long way in reducing the stigma of people who cannot afford to purchase food on their own.
The Wellington City Mission’s blog post explained “We can only imagine how hard it must be for someone to ask for food support. The concept of the Social Supermarket is about providing dignity, self-respect and encouragement to those who are vulnerable in our local community. We wanted to make a positive change to our Foodbank model. We already had a close working relationship with New World across Wellington, they’re always hugely supportive with donations and through their annual Family2Family Foodbank Appeal, so when we started to develop the Social Supermarket concept, we picked the phone up and asked for their help.”
Chris Quin, CEO of Foodstuffs North Island who operate New World, says the partnership is a natural extension of a long-standing relationship between New World, it’s local owner operators and Wellington City Mission. Working together on the Social Supermarket, which is a first of its kind in New Zealand, provided an opportunity to extend the co-operative’s commitment to helping ensure all New Zealanders have access to healthy food.
The supermarket will be open for anyone in need in the Wellington region. This includes people who are already receiving help from the mission or who are referred from other social service agencies. People do not have to prove that they are in need to shop at the supermarket but appointments are necessary. The super is open Monday – Friday from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm with social workers on hand to help the shoppers. People are allocated points depending on their individual situations. A single adult is allocated $55 in points and families receive more. There are also special bins that include items that do not come out of the point system.
The market stocks almost anything you can find in a grocery store except alcohol or tobacco products and already has 3,000 different products. Even though the new store is being supported by a large chain, food donations are still needed and wanted.