In the weeks since the country went into COVID-19 lockdown there have been reports from right around the country of foodbanks facing unprecedented demand.
Anticipating that the financial pressures of lockdown would also be felt here in the South Kaipara, a group of Helensville based social agencies banded together in the first week of lockdown to form a Foodbank Collective.
The group involves Helensville Women and Family Centre, Kia TîmataAnô Women’s Refuge, Te Ha Oranga, South Kaipara Men’s Centre, Outwest Youth and representatives from local schools as well as police.
Within a week a venue was sourced, arrangements were made to buy groceries at Helensville Countdown and New World Kumeu, funding was applied for and the necessary arrangements made to ensure food parcels could be safely packed and delivered while adhering to the strict health and safety rules surrounding COVID-19.
In little less than a month since the first delivery, over 145 food parcels have been delivered to 68 homes, helping 149 adults and 129 children.
“Some of these are people who were already in touch with one or more of these agencies, but for others this is the first time they’ve had to ask for help and we know that can be a really difficult thing to do,” says Tracey Roberts, a Kaipara College Social Worker who has been helping pack and deliver the parcels. “But, it’s really important no-one feels alone and unable to reach out,” she says. “We’re so lucky in this community to have so many agencies willing to work together to ensure we help build up a person’s mana and help them get back on their feet.”
Each food parcel includes ingredients and recipes for three family meals and the Waitemata Whanau COVID-19 Support Resource for Families booklet.
Cath Rameka from Te Ha Oranga says many whânau have had family members move back home since lockdown, so there’s extra pressure on the regular household income. Kia TîmataAnô Women’s Refuge Executive Director Ana Strong adds, “our intention is very much about viewing the food parcel as a vehicle to start a relationship with a person or whânau, it’s given with aroha and from there we can ensure that a family gets whatever additional support they need.”
“Being made to stay home with your family isn’t always a bed of roses, especially when relationships are already difficult,” Ana Strong says. “That’s why it’s so important that people know it’s okay to ask for help during this unprecedented time before the pressures reach breaking point and we’ve seen that with our family violence advocates much busier than usual helping people with the tools they need to stay safe in their own homes.”
And it’s not just people receiving help. While delivering food parcels people have asked for support for their beloved companion animals, so the Foodbank Collective sourced some bones and biscuits to ensure they too are looked after.
The Foodbank Collective also offers a way for so many in the community who want to help to do so.
Online donations for the Foodbank Collective can be made on the Helensville Women and Family Centre website, www.hwfc.co.nz.
While it was initially set up to meet the needs of lockdown, the groups involved are aiming to keep the Foodbank Collective running for at least another six months as they anticipate the need will only grow even after lockdown ends.