It’s lunchtime at your average kiwi school. Hundreds of energetic kids are tucking into a home-made lunch — just what they need to fuel up and get ready for the afternoon of learning ahead. But sadly, many other kids are going without.
According to the Child Poverty Monitor, 28% of kiwi kids live in low income households. That often means their parents are living paycheque to paycheque and may not be able to afford the basics of a packed lunch. The result is hungry, distracted kids who disrupt classrooms and struggle to concentrate when it matters most.
Three years ago, a TV report inspired Lisa King to take action and do something about this pressing social issue. Together with professional chef Michael Meredith, she launched ‘Eat My Lunch’ — a social enterprise that aims to feed kiwi kids, using the buy one, give one© model.
“People can sign up and get their lunch delivered to them at work. It’s fresh, healthy lunches, delivered every day. And for every lunch you buy, one goes to a kid,” explains Lisa.
Originally, Lisa planned on Eat My Lunch being a side-project. They’d make 100 lunches a day, 50 for adults and 50 for kids. But generous kiwis had other plans. Fuelled by social media buzz, the Eat My Lunch business model quickly took off.
"We weren’t quite ready for it,” admits Lisa. "By our 12th week, we hit our 3 year forecast."
Currently serving Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton, Lisa wants to expand Eat My Lunch to the South Island. They’ve also recently launched a new ‘Eat My Dinner’ service, which will allow people to buy fresh, ready to heat and eat dinners. In the process, they'll be giving another lunch to a hungry kid.
Scaling a fast growing organisation is never easy, but the early decision to launch Eat My Lunch as a sustainable enterprise rather than a charity is helping. A sustainable enterprise is an organisation that has a social mission but derives most of its income from trade rather than donations. The enterprise then reinvests the majority of its profit in the fulfilment of that mission.
"People don’t want to just give money to charities and not know where that money goes,” says Lisa. “The impact we have is really immediate. We’re not asking consumers to change their behaviour — they’re having lunch and dinner anyways.
“I think that’s why it’s worked well, it’s really simple for people. It’s easy.”
Some big names have thrown their weight behind Eat My Lunch — Lorde, the Hurricanes and Joseph Parker have all offered their endorsements. Many local businesses have got on board as well. Z Energy is just one organisation that has agreed to make Eat My Lunch their official catering partner.
"We’ve had really generous support from corporates, like Z. A lot of people have come and said, ‘we want to help solve this problem, we don’t want anything in return’. It’s just giving without expecting anything back," says Lisa.
Eat My Lunch have now given over 500,000 lunches to hungry kids in need, a number Lisa finds hard to get her head around. But she’s quick to point out that there’s lots more work to do.
"Even though it feels like we’ve done a lot, we’re still a long way from our goal."
“The reason I wanted to do this is not to solve poverty, that’s a massive problem that requires more than one solution. But I’ve got two young kids and I can’t imagine them going all day with nothing to eat, trying to learn, focus and concentrate. If they can’t do that, if they’re disruptive in class, they’re not going to do well."
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