The Feed a Family Story
The vision for the Feed A Family appeal was initiated in 2015 by the foodbank staff and youth team of St Vincent de Paul of Kingsland Centre. With the rise in ‘food insecurity’ and the growing awareness that this was an invisible issue which needed to be addressed.
After much discussion it was understood that people impacted by food insecurity, those providing foodbank services as well as those who wanted to assist needed to come together. There needed to be ongoing face to face connections so as to grow in understanding and propose a way forward together. What unfolded over time was a comprehensible awareness educational programme for Vinnies in Catholic secondary schools. These shed light on systemic drivers of food insecurity and the stories of those affected.
Today this food Insecurity programme – Feed A Family is facilitated in 15 Catholic colleges in Auckland. As a response to this kaupapa, students and staff learn about the stories of those affected. They also learn about the causes of food insecurity before mobilising their school to collect food. This is then distributed to families seeking support from foodbanks.
In addition to this, students are also invited to volunteer in Vinnies centres so to get an integrated experience of what happens behind the scenes in order to alleviate poverty. The students are also invited to take part in the cooking of bulk nutritious meals to give to those who simply do not have the means, ability or resources to cook them. This part of the programme was a direct response to families and individuals sharing stories about the challenges of accessing cooked nutritious meals. Often the places these families were housed in either did not have adequate cooking facilities, insufficient funds, stress, time pressures as well as ill health.
In 2017 another part of this Feed A Family programme was been rolled out in the central Auckland Catholic parishes through the Winter and Christmas Feed A Family Appeal. Through this appeal, the stories of those afflicted are shared during Mass and an invitation is given out to parishioners to accompany a family through prayers. They are also invited to support through the sponsoring of a foodbox for the week or a month.
Each of these services and opportunities to assist are offered in the hope of bringing our communities closer together, as we are reminded by the Gospels that we are also called to God through our care of one another.
KiwiHarvest Lending a Helping Hand
The Society of St Vincent are grateful recipients of KiwiHarvest, a non-for-profit organisation that specialises in redistributing fresh food produce that might otherwise be thrown in for waste. These quality sources of food have proven invaluable to the formation of food parcels, as the items are nutritional and sustainable. These provide a welcome respite for families who might otherwise receive canned or non-perishable items for the majority of their foodparcels. When coupled with the donations of the ‘Feed a Family’ appeal this ensures that meals are both healthy and filling.
Accompanying and Supporting Families
In the last year over 5,000 people were supported through the provision of food parcels and budgeting advice. These come at an important time for many, particularly those who struggle to find where their next meal will come from. Often those who seek support from the Society of St Vincent de Paul are those who encounter an unexpected setback. Through the donations of the ‘Feed A Family’ appeal, food becomes one less thing for families to worry about. By redirecting money from groceries to other costs such as utilities and debt, families are able to get a stronger foothold on living costs. A number of volunteers and staff work hard to ensure that families are receiving quality food parcel and referral assistance. Each food parcel contains a mix of nutritional, easy to cook ingredients including fruit, vege and meat produce. The donations towards the appeal are significant in the sense that families are able to create meals which are healthy and positively contribute to their wellbeing.
Sharing a Meal with the Community
Auckland City Mission is a hub in the heart of the city, providing a source of support for those without a home, those with addictions and those struggling to put food on the table. In 2019 alone City Mission distributed 23,000 emergency food parcels to families and individuals in desperate need. They were able to house over 50 people through housing first, provide 17,000 medical consultations to vulnerable, high-needs patients; and admit 354 people to residential drug & alcohol detoxification. At the centre of their services is a recognition of peoples dignity and the significance of compassionate care. The Society of St Vincent de Paul is grateful for the opportunity to journey alongside other organisations that support the community. The tuesday night shared meal for wahine continues to run strong, with many volunteers from the Society taking part. This is a space for women to cook a hearty dinner and connect in with other women who do not have a place to call home. It is the spirit of conversation and sharing stories that make these mealtimes so memorable.