Bellyful is marking the massive milestone of delivering 200,000 meals.
The volunteer-powered charity cooks and delivers free, yummy meals to whānau, with babies or young children, who need support.
“They say it takes a village, but we know for many that village does not always exist. So we’re there for anyone who doesn’t have those traditional support networks,” says Bellyful General Manager Wendy Thompson.
“These are often exhausted new parents, many who have no extended family locally, or who are just simply going through a tough patch. We also help many whānau where someone is unwell, or who have babies in neonatal units. We’re here for anyone who needs a few meals to get through. We don’t offer advice. We don’t judge. We just provide meals.”
The 200,000 meal milestone comes 13 years after Bellyful was founded. The first branch, Bellyful Franklin, was formed in Pukekohe in 2009 by Jacqui Ritchie, who had a vision of women coming together to cook and distribute meals to mums who had new babies and lacked support.
It’s a concept that caught on. Bellyful has grown steadily, now serving 25 communities. Meals are cooked around once a month by a team of volunteers in a ‘Cookathon’, then packaged and frozen, ready to be delivered to whānau who need them.
Thompson, who is retiring later this year, is delighted to have hit such a special milestone.
“We have only been able to hit 200,000 meal deliveries because of our incredible volunteers. They have driven the opening of new branches, found local funding, and turned up time after time to cook and deliver meals. An immeasurable number of volunteer hours has gone into those 200,000 meals. Along with an immense number of onions!”
Thompson adds, “it’s so lovely to think of all those full bellies, and all the time tired whānau have been able to spend together, instead of stressing about what to make for dinner.”
She predicts it will not take too long for Bellyful to reach more major milestones. “We have so much demand already. And we are determined to be everywhere we are needed. It is a challenge we are excited about. We are so grateful for ongoing support from our communities, funders and donors that has allowed us to reach this milestone and allows us to work towards even larger ones.”
Anyone interested in opening a branch in their community is welcome to get in touch via [email protected]