Wellington City Mission opens New Zealand's first social supermarket

By Jessica Tyson

Wellington City Mission has opened New Zealand's first social supermarket, to help whānau in need.

Instead of giving food parcels, the customers pick their own items off the shelves, just as at any other supermarket filled with groceries.

Wellington City Mission community services general manager Olivia Lange says. “We knew that the system that we had currently, which was pre-packaged food parcels,  was not the best model and we wanted to do better.”

Instead of paying money, items are worth points, which shoppers can redeem based on their individual needs.

“We looked at some other models overseas and decided that this concept was the best one and we thought it provided dignity of choice. It allowed people to come in to choose what is best for them and their whānau and it’s been going for about a week and a half now and it's been really cool.”

Wellington city missioner Murray Edridge says shoppers at the Social Supermarket will be hosted and supported to select an appropriate range of products to meet their needs and those of their whānau. Customers will also be offered budgeting support, with social workers available to assist, along with a fulltime store manager.

“We wanted to a make a positive change to our foodbank model,” Edridge says.

“We already had a close working relationship with New World across Wellington. It's always hugely supportive with donations and through its annual Family2Family Foodbank Appeal, so when we started to develop the social supermarket concept, we picked the phone up and asked for its help.”

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.