Wellington City Mission opens 'social' supermarket, first of its kind in New Zealand

Instead of giving food parcels, Wellington City Mission welcomed its first customers to pick their own items at its social supermarket on Tuesday.
This move marks a change in how the charitable trust gives food to people who need support by providing them with choice, rather than set parcel of food.

The social supermarket the first of its kind in New Zealand is just like any other supermarket, with fruits and vegetables, sanitary products, pasta, cheese and baked beans lined up along the aisles.

Items are free and anyone in need across the Wellington region . Wellington City Mission staff and volunteers would also be on hand to help shoppers choose what to buy for themselves and their families.

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Instead of paying money, items were worth a certain amount of points, ranging from one to five.

Items that were worth one point include sanitary products and canned food while items worth five points were nappies, baby formula and chocolate-dipped almonds.

Shoppers were given a number of points to spend depending on their family size and whether they were shopping for themselves. However, Wellington City Mission would not be strict with this.

Wellington City Missioner Murray Edridge says the social supermarket gives people choice.

Throughout 2021, Wellington City Mission's food parcel service would gradually be phased out as people shop at the social supermarket.

For Wellington City Missioner Murray Edridge, the social supermarket represented "dignity in choice.

We have so many families in the community who live life on the edge that it takes very little to push them over more families are reaching out for our services too because of Covid-19, Edridge said.

Its never just about food it reflects other things and the big one is the cost of housing, which is so high in Wellington. There's so much pressure and stress to pay the bills that sometimes theres not enough money leftover to buy food.

Shoppers were given a number of points to spend depending on family size and whether they were shopping for themselves.

"The social supermarket is giving people the opportunity to choose and theres dignity in choice. The experience of shopping is going to be really powerful, Edridge said.

People could have a sense of normality in what they did without feeling stigmatised by their circumstances, he said.

Wellington City Missions social supermarket in Newtown is open to customers.

The social supermarkets floor manager, Selena Mills, said Foodstuffs had put in the shelving at the end of February.

The supermarket is open from Monday to Friday to shoppers by appointment only and Mills said, at this stage, they would be taking two groups at a time. Each appointment would be about half an hour.

I think lots of people will love it because youre able to choose your own things. It's people being able to choose themselves.

Instead of paying money, items at the social supermarket are worth a certain amount of points, ranging from one to five.

Donated food and other goods would also be stacked on the shelves.

Chris Quin, the chief executive of Foodstuffs North Island, said staff installed 250 shelves and stacked 3000 products.

The social supermarket has about 3000 products on its shelves.

I think we've cracked something here that will make a difference, Quin said.

For parents to be able to tell their kids they were going shopping, gave families respect and dignity, he said.

People wanting to shop at the social supermarket could visit the Mission's reception in Newtown.

An architect's rendering of Whakamaru, Wellington City Mission's new community hub in Mt Cook, which is planned for 2022.

The social supermarket will eventually make its move to the Missions new community building Whakamaru in Mt Cook.

The building will have a community cafe, kitchens, laundry services, public bathrooms and showers, a space for people to pray and 35 housing units designed to accommodate people experiencing chronic homelessness.

In September 2020, Wellington City Mission received $10 million from the Government as part of its "shovel-ready" programme. Whakamaru will be complete in 2022.

Paul says 2020 has been the best year of his life because of the help and support he has received from Wellington City Mission. (First published in December 2020)


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