Pictured: Bellyful Wellington South volunteers have helped stock up meals for Hawke’s Bay
Bellyful’s Wellington branches have united to help get meals to Hawke’s Bay in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle.
“We are all deeply saddened by the devastating images and stories of loss,” says Bellyful CE Fiona Purchas. “We have been keeping in close touch with our volunteer leaders in affected regions who are best placed to let us know how we, and you our incredible supporters, can help.”
Bellyful Hawke’s Bay Branch Coordinator Sharne Ramsay says some of her volunteers have been badly affected, but they are all safe and doing ok.
The branch had to cancel a planned Cookathon due to the cyclone, so Bellyful’s Wellington branches have banded together to cook extra meals for Bellyful Hawke’s Bay.
“The goal is to fill their freezers with approximately 400 meals,” says Wellington West Branch Coordinator Jacqui Jago.
“This will take away the challenge for the Hawke’s Bay volunteers to meet and find a kitchen to cook in, and they can simply focus on getting the meals out to families who need them. We will cook hundreds of beef bolognese and macaroni cheese. Easily transportable meals, super family-friendly, and simple to heat and eat.”
Jacqui Jago says Bellyful is all about supporting families when they are vulnerable. “Not only do we want to ensure Hawke’s Bay families can be nourished and nurtured by Bellyful again as soon as possible, we want to support our volunteers in the Bay and make it as easy as possible for them to get back to looking after their community again.”
The Wellington branches would love community donations of pasta and rice, so it be can be included with the meals. Contact us for drop-off points.
“Bellyful volunteers are gorgeous humans. The Bellyful family is very important to all of us and like everyone, we want to do all we can help,” Jago adds.
The first batch of meals has arrived in Napier, and more will be on the way soon. It has allowed Bellyful Hawke’s Bay to reopen at reduced capacity.
“Supporting our volunteer network so they can sustain their on-the-ground mahi will be a priority in the coming months, and any support you can give will be a huge encouragement to branches and the national team,” says Fiona Purchas.
“Thanks to Meat the Need who have stepped up to provide extra meat for the Wellington teams cooking for Hawke’s Bay, and to Fidelity Life, whose sponsorship has enabled us to respond quickly where there was a need.”
Whitianga remaining upbeat
The Coromandel Peninsula has been heavily impacted by damage from flooding and slips.
Bellyful Whitianga Co-Branch Coordinator Fran Jack says the local Fire Brigade was very busy for about 48 hours straight, but the community rallied to support firefighters by dropping off food to keep them going.
“Most of our volunteers are fine. Some have suffered damage to their property, but nothing too major. Unfortunately, due to major power cuts in some communities, some of our volunteers lost the content of their freezers. This also included some Bellyful meals that had to be disposed of after being defrosted.”
Jack says while the severe weather was an unpleasant experience, it also made her feel very grateful for the community she lives in and appreciate the Kiwi approach to life of ‘we’ll deal with what we’ve got’ once more.
The small community is slowly recovering, with schools and kindys starting back, allowing some form of normality.
The main road to the Peninsula is closed, due to a major slip, and Jack expects it will take months, if not years, to reinstate. This is likely to increase the local cost of living. It has also had a dramatic impact on local businesses who rely on tourists and visitors, on the back of the Covid downturn, which may affect their ability to support Bellyful Whitianga.
“The closure of State Highway 25A will definitely have an impact on us, as it has already increased the cost of groceries. Some of the areas we deliver to are still difficult to reach. We hope that our sponsors and supporters will be able to continue their support for Bellyful Whitianga.”
But overall, Jack says Bellyful Whitianga has have been pretty lucky and will most probably be fine. “All our love goes to the amazing Bellyful volunteers in Hawke’s Bay and we are working on a plan to show our support and send them help.”
Auckland branches face double weather whammy
Bellyful North Shore and Bellyful West Auckland have borne the brunt of the weather wrath in our largest city.
Bellyful North Shore has had a freezer impacted by flooding and is operating at reduced capacity until it can hold a Cookathon.
Bellyful West Auckland had to postpone a planned Cookathon due to weather warnings on the day Cyclone Gabrielle bore down, and a number of branch leaders and volunteers then had lengthy power outages.
“Other than having to cancel our Cookathon and having a Recipient Coordinator without power and a few others affected by power issues and flooding, we’re all still relatively intact as far as I know!” says Branch Coordinator Tracy Cox.
The branch plans to restock very soon and looks forward to being able to serve its community as soon as possible.
“Our hearts go out to everyone affected and in way worse situations and hope to be able to extend a helping hand further and wider as both supply, meal and volunteer capacity allows!”
Franklin gets cooking for Auckland
Bellyful Franklin’s volunteers churned out extra meals at their February Cookathon, so they can support the wider region which has been hit twice by severe weather.
Cyclone Gabrielle caused further slips, flooding and lengthy power outages, on the back of the Auckland Anniversary Weekend floods.
A team of 13 cooks made a whopping 253 meals on Monday. That is about 80-100 meals more than usual but only took an extra hour. Bellyful Franklin Branch Coordinator Sally Warrender says the have refilled their own freezers, and will get the extra meals where they are needed, Bellyful North Shore and Middlemore’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Sally says she is very proud of her team. “Seriously, I show up, the ingredients arrive (c/- our awesome Cookathon Coordinator Rebecca), tables, frypans, are set up, jars opened, the meals churn, our team just make it happen.
“They always put their hands up if we ask, once their task is done, they look for another, dishes, labels, new systems – they just do it. Never any complaints, and always a smile, laugh and some epic conversation. Our volunteers make my life super easy. They live and breathe Bellyful love – being kind is so simple, because you never know what anyone is going through.”
Bellyful Franklin is looking at doing another 250 meal Cookathon in March. Please get in touch if you would like to help.
Bellyful referral numbers continue to climb
The impacts of the catastrophic weather come as there is a rise in demand for Bellyful’s support across the country.
Referrals have climbed since August and we had record referrals in January. We are also fielding many inquiries about opening new branches. We are working with people across the country interested in bringing Bellyful to their communities.
Fiona Purchas is expressing pride in how Bellyful’s teams have worked together, across branches, to ensure meal supplies were still available to families in need.
“We don’t know how long it is going to take to recover from these events, but what we do know, is that Bellyful is in this for the long haul. The impacts of these events on our whānau, with babies and young children will be prolonged, and they will need us to be there providing human connection, smiles, encouragement and meal support not just tomorrow, but in the weeks and months ahead.”
There are plenty of ways you can help increase the web of our support. Here are some practical ideas: