Heather Tribe

When Heather Tribe was 5 years old, a classmate said something untrue about her brother, so she tried to fight him. She’s been fighting injustice and for those without a voice ever since.

I grew up between military bases across the UK and Europe. We moved to New Zealand when I was eight. I remember seeing the mangrove swamps around Te Atatu and thinking they were magical sunken forests.

Waitākere was my first home in New Zealand. I saw a lot of everyday discrimination and inequality. I didn’t understand the colonial scars or bigger picture at the time, but I definitely saw the pain. I found the sheer scale of need for food in Waitākere very depressing.

My parents taught me to see the best in people and to do my best by everyone. I remember a man on our street being arrested for drug possession. My parents could see he was a loving father and a great guy who had made a couple of mistakes. Mum cared for his kids, my brother and me on her own. Dad worked hard to be at this man’s hearings and vouched for his character.

Mum, Dad and my brother stood up when they saw injustice. During my high school years, I channeled that energy into leading several social cause groups such as peer mentoring, Students Against Driving Drunk, Amnesty International, and an animal welfare fundraiser group.

In 2017, I did an internship in Canada as part of my Masters in Peace and Conflict studies. My manager there had so many passions and to each she was dedicated and brave in challenging the status quo. She taught me to utilise all available resources, to think outside the box, and to commit to each cause with my heart and soul.

Last year I spent some time in the refugee camps in France. I worked in a community kitchen that made a massive amounts of meals from donated produce. It was incredibly intense! I saw absolute suffering and injustice, but I also saw the gratitude of the refugees. It taught me the critical role that food can play in bringing people from different walks of life together.

Now I drive a van for Fair Food. I pick up food from supermarkets who give us their edible waste that would otherwise go to landfill. We sort it then distribute it to the charities in our community. This is my community, the community that raised me, so it feels really good to be giving back here.

Getting supermarket staff on board to the point where they give us greater quality and quantity of produce means we can give more food to our charities and that has a greater impact in our community. That feeling literally makes me yell for joy in the van! Hearing a personal story of someone the food has helped brings me such wild joy. I’m sure it sounds over the top, but I get absolutely pumped about this!

The work can be hard when there is a lot of food coming through the van. It’s a great deal of physical work but it’s worth it. I have become stronger from it. The job can take an emotional toll, too. When things get tough I think of the faces of the people I have seen beaming at me with fresh produce in their arms. It is truly rewarding to see the end result of families eating when they otherwise wouldn’t have.

I also developed our volunteer programme. It brings me immense joy for people to be able to experience what we do here and get a taste of it. To have developed something that enables others to experience the joy I have brings me great pride.

It also makes me very proud to help feed literally hundreds of people every single day, but it really wears me down to know that we have to. I hope one day to go into policy development so I can tackle the overarching issues of inequality and prevent families from needing help to this degree.

If you hate the thought of perfectly good food going to waste, support the good work of Fair Food with a regular donation at onepercentcollective.org

As told to Ben Woodward. Image by Tobias Kraus.

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