by Helen Martin
When young Helensville mother Katey Jackson got to thinking about what kind of initiative would help local families with a new baby, she came up with the idea of a community-supported free meal project. Helensville Birthing Centre and Helensville District Health Trust liked the idea and, after a lot of planning and fund raising through GiveALittle, the Te Kete Whângaiô Parakai project, aimed at giving each local family three free frozen meals on their departure from the Birthing Centre, was born.
In mid-December, a small group of women made up of community volunteers and people from the Birthing Centre and the Health Trust spent a day at Te Whare Orangaô Parakai, the community centre owned by the Trust, cooking around 100 lasagne, macaroni cheese and vegetarian soup meals. As one of the volunteers I was really impressed by the professionalism of this first cook-a-thon where, under the calm tutelage of Kitchen and Catering manager Keryn Reardon, we were first initiated into the mysteries of cooking in a commercial kitchen, then guided through the process of the hygienic production of large quantities of food. For those of us more used to a domestic scale, methods for washing the huge pots at the end were something of a revelation – I’m looking forward to having another go at it.
Depending on funding, it’s intended that the project will eventually expand. As Health Trust Manager Nicola Keen-Biggelaar explains,” While we’re starting with new families, once we’re up and running we’ll expand the service to include the elderly, the unwell and families in crisis.”