• Incremental Change Agency

How feeding the homeless can help the planet too

Updated: Mar 10

This is Wayne Quinn and his daughter Parris Quinn.

They are the dynamic duo behind Filo and Heart Parcels. (Not pictured is Parris’ amazing mother, Barbara, who keeps everything together behind the scenes.)

“On a global scale, more than $1.2 trillion worth of food goes to landfill every year, contributing to approximately 8% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions” (Spinoff, 2019). This is why the work Parris and her family are doing is so important. As she would say, “no one should go hungry because there is so much food.”

In 2016, Parris worked in hospitality in Wellington. She would finish late at night, walk to the Wellington train station and take the train home to Porirua. “I’ll never forget the first time I commuted home. There were so many homeless people sleeping at Wellington train station. That was before they had security there to move people along. They’d wrap themselves in mats and sleep in the train gutters to stay warm. It pulled at my heart strings and I couldn’t get it off my mind. I needed to find a way to help. That is what inspired Heart Parcels.” Parris said.

“I started small in June 2016 by making meals from home. I put aside part of my salary each week and motivated my parents to help me cook. We quickly began feeding 60-70 homeless people a week. From there, I partnered with other food businesses like Cake Society to get left over cakes and food to create the meals. We also worked with the community to get second hand clothes and blankets to distribute.” Parris said.

Filo started out of the growing needs of the homeless community and Parris’ family’s desire to help support her cause further. “We started Filo as a family business from our home in Porirua. We made two filo meals and brownies, which we’d deliver twice a week to customers, with the brownie proceeds going to Heart Parcels. We then had a neighbour approach us because they were leasing out a commercial shop closeby and asked if we wanted it. It was the right time and we moved in. That was October 2017. Then a little over a year later, we grew again relocating to our new home in Porirua City Centre March 2019. It’s exciting that one more year later and we are now launching the new Heart Markets.” Parris said.

The Heart Markets, will feature a huge variety of items with a focus on sustainability including upcycled, second hand, and handmade items, along with plants and fruits and vegetables. “We are really looking forward to making this market an institution that the city can be proud of. We are so excited that it will also allow us to grow our mission for the homeless to include more cities including Auckland, Gisborne, and Christchurch” Parris said.

Parris has big plans for Heart Parcels future. She recently was the recipient of the Contiki 35 under 35 2019 changemakers award and is the new Sustainability Ambassador. “I’m really thankful to have received this award. My dream is to see Heart Parcels become a global initiative and I know this award helps make others more aware of the work we are doing. In the other cities we are moving to, we are partnering with restuarants as a way of ensuring food waste can be used to nourish those who need it most. I hope this model can be taken and applied around the globe under the Heart Parcels umbrella.” Parris said.

We asked Parris what her favourite moment has been working on this cause and she told us a story about the one year anniversary of Heart Parcels. “We rented out Te Aro Hall in Wellington. Cake Society made us a huge cake. We partnered with restaurants to create a delicious buffet lunch. And created a whole makeover area, complete with barbers and hairdressers, clothes and shoes as well as blankets and sheets. It was one of the most wonderful days of my life. I loved seeing everyone so happy after their makeovers. You could tell it was the first time they felt good about themselves in a long time” Parris said.

“We’ve also seen huge changes in some of the people’s lives we’ve worked with. One of our regulars from the start was a homeless busker. He used to play music all day long in Wellington to feed himself. We encouraged him to apply for music school because he was so talented. He did and was able to get in, but he was still homeless so often would show up unshowered and without shoes. The Director of the programme had a meeting with him and said he wouldn’t be able to continue unless he cleaned himself up. We took him to get a shower, bought him a new waredrobe and personal care products through Heart Parcels. A month later, he came to see us to tell us know he’d gotten a house. Since then he has been off the streets and also finished his music course. He also joined a church and plays on their worship team every Sunday. It’s amazing how something so small – a bit of encouragement, some food, and helping him access personal care could be so transformational. I’d love to see more stories like this unfold around the world because I know how much it can change people's lives.” Parris said.

If you’re keen to set up Heart Parcels in your city, you can do it incrementally by:

1.) Getting in touch with Parris Quinn by contacting heartparcels@gmail.com

2.) Contacting local restuarants to source leftover food, which can be repurposed into beautiful meals

3.) Partnering with the community or second hand shops to get clothes, blankets and other supplies

4.) Finding a good location that is accessible by the homeless community where you can host meal deliveries weekly

5.) Once you grow, consider developing a Heart Market so you can further your mission by partnering with Council to get space, finding suppliers with a focus on sustainable products including upcycled, second hand, handmade goods, plants, fruits and vegetables and working to provide pathways for the homeless community to work and gain references