Instead of being allocated food parcels, this new supermarket lets people choose exactly what food support they need -  and it’s all for free. 

New Zealand’s first social supermarket opened its doors this week. The Wellington City Mission initiative supported by New World aims to bring back dignity and freedom when it comes to accessing food support.

Usually, if someone needs help accessing food they can apply for a pre-packaged food parcel from their local City Mission. But because these parcels aren’t customisable, people might be given things they can’t eat, don’t need, or don’t know how to use. 

That’s why the Social Supermarket does things differently. Shoppers will be able to visit the store and choose their own food and basic supplies from a wide range of products. Just like a normal supermarket, except there are no price tags. Each item will have a point value and shoppers will be entitled to a certain number of points depending on their needs. Shoppers can also access in-store budgeting support.

Wellington City missioner Murray Edridge said in a press release on Wednesday the approach gives people the dignity of choice.

“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.”

Selena Mills, the Social Supermarket floor manager, told Re: “We have had quite a few customers who have been overwhelmed by how much choice they have. I’ve teared up a few times.”

She said some customers had allergies so they found food parcels difficult because they had to read all of the labels really carefully, but now they don’t have that problem and they can choose what is best for them. 

“Another customer was a mother who had a son who was about to go on camp. She was so excited to be able to come in and get some of the things he can take away on camp with him like sunscreen and muesli bars. It was just such a joy for her to be able to support her son in that way.”

The Social Supermarket will be open and free to anyone across the Wellington region in need of some extra help. This includes those currently being supported by, or new to The Mission, and those being supported or referred by other social service agencies.

The community also has a part to play. In order to keep the shelves stocked New Zealanders can donate food to Social Supermarket by dropping food products to 19 Gordon Place, Newtown, Wellington.

The Wellington City Mission’s Social Supermarket is open every weekday from 9.30am to 3.30pm by appointment. It is located at 15 Gordon Place, Newtown, Wellington.

If you need food support or would like to refer someone to The Mission’s Social Supermarket, you can contact The Mission’s main reception on 04 245 0900 or email: [email protected].

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