Eat My Lunch toasts to turning one with big plans for the future

To celebrate Eat My Lunch’s first birthday, founder Lisa King reflects on the social enterprise’s achievements, and how it plans to get even bigger.

In the past year, Eat My Lunch has delivered over 325,000 lunches, with 180,000 lunches given to hungry kids in 32 low decile schools in Auckland and Hamilton. It’s an accomplishment beyond what King could imagine.

Initial expectations to make 50 lunches a day quickly grew to 500 a day in week four, and by the time four months rolled around it had “smashed” its three-year forecast King says.

“I don’t think we quite imagined we’d be here and 50,000 lunches given away in a year seemed big back then, and so to have done triple and then more than triple that has been really incredible.”

Despite the numbers, there are still hungry kids and Eat My Lunch has a waitlist of 15 schools hoping to reap the benefits of the food delivery service.

King says the feedback from schools has been “overwhelming”, with kids not only having a full belly, they are more focused in class.

“We’ve has schools say the kids’ skin is better, they’re healthier and it’s helped some schools with attendance.”

Some schools have seen the lowest rates of absenteeism since Eat My Lunch started, King says, because parents are no longer embarrassed about sending their kids to school without any lunch. She also says teachers who had been giving up their lunch time and using their own money to provide food for the kids, now have that time back and can focus on teaching.

To keep up with demand, Eat My Lunch has had over 1,000 volunteers help out in its kitchen, with 15 to 20 coming in at 6.30 every morning ready to make sandwiches.

“I really love it because it’s a very social atmosphere and the volunteers come from all walks of life,” King says. “Whether they are lawyers in a big firm, doctors, nurses, retired grandmothers who are at home or students, we’ve even had school girls come and make lunches.”

Getting volunteers to donate their time and make lunches is in keeping with Eat My Lunch’s mission. Everything it does is part of the effort of trying to make sure no kid goes hungry at school, including her fee speaking for speaking at events, which is in the form of lunch for 100 kids.

To further increase the number of given lunches, today, Eat My Lunch has launched the first lending-based crowd funding campaign on PledgeMe. Last year, the social enterprise ran the most pledged crowd funding campaign in New Zealand with over 2,500 pledgers raising almost $130,000 to set up a commercial kitchen. Now, with a new peer-to-peer lending method, King has set the bar higher.

Eat My Lunch hope to raise a maximum of $1,000,000 by issuing “Lunch Bonds” an offer designed to provide financial return to their crowd, as well as lunches to kids.

Lenders have a choice of two combinations of interest rates and giving, with the minimum investment being $1,000. They will be able to chose either six percent interest per annum and have one lunch given away each month on their behalf, or receive no interest and have two lunches given away each month.

“There’s this social element to the Lunch Bond,” King says. “Because, not only are you getting a really great financial return on your money, you are also enabling us to provide more lunches to kids.”

The additional lunches will benefit not only Auckland and Hamilton, but also Wellington, the first city off the rank for Eat My Lunch’s further national expansion. King says from its beginning, people have been asking it to come to different parts of the country and Wellington is one of those areas that was very vocal because Wellingtonians are very community minded.

King also plans to expand to dinner, which she says is the natural next step for the service since moving into its commercial kitchen. For every dinner bought, one lunch will be given, something King hopes will help meet the demand of Eat My Lunch’s waiting list.

And dinner isn’t the only upgrade. Improved website technology will help make ordering easier and faster. She says when Eat My Lunch started, the website was built in four weeks, on a very tight budget and it hasn’t kept up with the growth. “We recognise online food delivery is a massive opportunity, it’s big overseas and it’s only going to get bigger in New Zealand,” she says. “We need to be at the forefront of that technology, giving customers a great experience via their mobiles and the website so we want to set ourselves up to be able to lead that and be ready for the future.”

King hopes Kiwis will get behind its peer-to-peer lending campaign because it's an easy way for them to help other Kiwis.

“This isn’t about sending money to children in Africa, this is about our kids right here who aren’t getting the basic necessities of life,” she says. “It’s easy and simple for people to get on board and make a difference to kids who are our future.”