"You can make a huge impact with the choices you make on how you buy food, store food, share food. We should respect our food like that."
Auckland food waste activist Veronica Shale comes from "a long line of gutsy, curious Croatians" whose culture prioritises food and community.
This week, she launches the Zero Food Waste Challenge - a week-long campaign that kicks off in NZ businesses and schools on 22 September 2022 (the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste).
While working at the Auckland food rescue charity Fair Food NZ, she helped redirect 143 tonnes of good food away from landfills to families in need.
She also met a lot of children who, with their "naive intelligence", have a lot to teach adults about the importance of taking urgent action to minimise food waste.
"We all the kids are asking us adults to act, they're looking at us. And I'm just doing what I can do."
The Zero Waste Challenge will encourage people to reduce food waste at home, support their local food rescue charities and value the Kiwi entrepreneurs trying to provide solutions, such as Taupō produce supplier Misfit Garden, Auckland waste-free meal service Sustainable Food Co and the Auckland brewery Citizen Collective that makes beer out of discarded bread.
"[The Challenge is] a way to give people and children practical skills to tackle food waste, which is a huge problem for the climate. It's a way to encourage all of us to become more resilient and more resourceful for the future that's going to face us. And it's a way to take meaningful climate action where you live every day."
Food rescue has been underway in New Zealand for around 10 years, but the Covid-19 pandemic has galvanised the sector to coordinate, improve their practices and seek funding, Shale says.
In the 12 months prior to the arrival of the Covid-19 Delta variant, New Zealand's food rescue charities collected and redistributed over 8.5 million kilos of food destined for landfill, she says.
But fighting food waste on an individual level starts with just small conscious acts.
"I just think if you've got the skills and the power to do some good, you should. And if you've got surplus, you should share it.
"Not every day is easy but one step at a time, that's all we can do."
You can register for the Zero Waste Challenge here.