Former corporate marketer Lisa King kept reading about hungry children in New Zealand schools, and she was determined to find a solution.
The result is Eat My Lunch, a social enterprise which aims to have a significant impact on a child’s wellbeing and ability to learn, by filling their bellies.
“Eat My Lunch is a purpose-led business that was set up to ensure that no child in New Zealand goes to school hungry,” Lisa says.
The business operates on a buy one, give one model. For every gourmet salad or sandwich an Auckland office worker buys from the business, a substantial healthy lunch will be gifted to a child in need.
“In the four years we have been going we have made and delivered 1.3 million lunches to customers and also given another 1.3 million lunches to children in low-decile schools in Auckland and Wellington.”
Eat My Lunch has 45 employees, and a further 18,000 volunteers have turned up to make those 1.3 million lunches for New Zealand children.
Lisa has built a strong business model that has created a positive social impact. She believes that business cannot just be about making money anymore and that business can (and should) bring about social change. Using an innovative purpose-led business model, Eat My Lunch has shown a business can do well and do good at the same time.
“The biggest challenge I think for our particular model and the kind of business we are is to get people to be aware and understand how a social business actually works; that you can make money and you can do well at the same time, and those two things are not mutually exclusive.”
She says every weekday morning 35 volunteers turn up to make lunches for the kids. There is a three-month waiting list to get one of those coveted volunteering spots.
“A very unique part of our business is that we do have volunteers come in and make the free lunches for the kids. Over the years we’ve had 18,000 volunteers. What’s really blown me away is that there is just so much generosity in the community. Kiwis really want to give back and they really want do good.
“They come here at 6.30am in the morning; after a couple of hours they can see the 2500 lunches that they’ve made that are going to feed 2500 kids that day.”
Lisa is described as incredibly motivated, passionate and inspiring. Staff say she has not only turned her own personal dream into a reality but has motivated and inspired them and the dedicated pool of volunteers to join her mission.
Every day Lisa asks for an update on exactly how many lunches have been supplied. Those numbers motivate her team to work hard to reduce the waiting list of schools that have registered.
Eat My Lunch’s organisation values are “we give, we care, we do”. Staff say these are values Lisa lives.
Lisa worked for many years in FMCG marketing roles for corporate giants such as Unilever and Cadbury’s. She walked away from that career to start Eat My Lunch.
“This is one of the most rewarding jobs that I’ve ever done; to get up and know that you are going to make a difference every day. But that really hits home when we receive letters from the kids or get feedback from the teachers.”
Schools say Eat My Lunch has helped improve attendance, because families no longer keep children home when they have no food for lunch. Children receiving the lunches get sick less than before and are more engaged in their learning.
And Lisa says her dreams for Eat My Lunch keep getting bigger.
“We’re a four-year-old business and we’ve grown incredibly fast,” Lisa says. “We hit our three-year forecast within 12 weeks of opening, so our plans are ever-evolving, but we’ve just launched our first grab ‘n’ go store in Britomart, Auckland.”
Lisa was one of three finalists for New Zealander of the Year 2019, acknowledging not just her desire to address the issue of kids going to school hungry, but using her passion, creativity and commercial expertise to make it a reality.
In March this year, Lisa was named MYOB Woman Entrepreneur of the Year giving her the opportunity to share Eat My Lunch to an audience of 1500 in Paris. Eat My Lunch has also been recognised for its business model and performance, winning awards such as Deloitte’s Fast 50 Rising Star, Westpac Business Awards and TVNZ Marketing Awards.