Feed A Family is programme facilitated by the Auckland St Vincent de Paul Centre in Newton that seeks to raise awareness and respond to Food Insecurity.
The programme has different components and services.
1. Kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) and building trust as well as connections with those seeking support and with local advocates.
2. Response: Understanding, advocacy and referral. Support is achieved through practical help and the provision of food boxes which include nutritious cooked meals.
3. Building of Relationships: with those seeking support, other social service providers, school communities, local parishes and donors.
4. Education and Awareness: Sharing the stories and factual information in colleges, church communities and local communities through presentations and mulitmedia.
5. Fundraising and sponsorship: Winter and Christmas Appeals to support families in need.
6. Feed A Family youth food projects: Launching of canned food collections, Cooking projects etc.
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.
As the lockdown continues amidst the global pandemic caused by covid-19, families are balancing the roles of helping to prevent disease transmission whilst also ensuring there is enough food to put on the table. A number of foodbanks run by various non-for profit collectives have closed across the country since the lockdown announcement. Foodbanks such as those operated by Auckland Society of St Vincent de Paul branches have been working overtime to keep families fed during the covid-19 pandemic. In response to this, a number of young adults have stepped up to offer any support they can. In anticipation of the growing need within the community, bulk chillers and freezers were connected and made ready for the incoming bulk food for the Vinnies foodbank. Between receiving stock, organising the foodbank and preparing logistics, these men and women would find time to fill in foodparcel requests for the Auck CBD, wider community areas as well as family lists from Social workers.
The realities of the covid-19 have been realised none more so than in our communities. Amidst calls to ensure the health and safety of families across the country, food has become even more important as both comfort and source of nutrition during this time of grief and healing. The unfolding of the lockdown has since called into question how Aotearoa as a nation might be able to ward off a food crisis that is pandemic-related. In response to this, young adults have been operating Foodbank Satellites from their homes all over Auckland. The bulk stock is dropped off to their homes and they are given lists of deliveries in their local area. Within the last few weeks alone there has been a steep surge in requests coming in from families needing support. This has meant an increase of teams and added precautions around social distancing, hand washing, sanitizing and sterilizing. The team of staff and volunteers have been working around the clock to process orders and pack boxes to meet the demand.
Health and wellbeing is influenced heavily by what and how we eat. The ability to consume food that is nutritional and accessible has become undermined by the intertwining of numerous realities. The reality for many families is that job security has been shaken, and in some cases rendered absent altogether. There are utility payments that still need to be paid. There are growing health care needs amongst those who live in homes with poor insulation. There are those who have isolated themselves in sickness with little to no access to support. While food is a significant need, many families have sorely missed the opportunities for face to face conversations or having someone there to hear their story.
The Auckland Vinnies team recognise that now, more than ever, solidarity, compassion and prayers will be what builds resilience against food insecurity. It is well known amongst the staff and volunteers of SVdP that upholding dignity through meaningful relationships will be key to ensuring that families do not go without during their time of need.
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.
To bring about connection through face to face and a safe space for wahine to gather over the kitchen table for a home cooked meal. There is also the concern for food and nutrition security for all people, there has been a call for more effective and equitable food assistance; particularly for women in need within Auckland.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul, the Auckland Citymission, Salvation Army amongst many other Charitable organisations works hard to achieve this through their different community programmes.
Last September ,the Vinnies collaborated with the Auckland Citymission leaders and members of Te Miringa Trust to roll out a new initiative to care for the wahine who need a safe space to gather, have nutritious kai and have face to face conversations.
As part of the new initiative,the female volunteers from Vinnies and Te Miringa Trust volunteer alternatively every Tuesday to provide manakitanga (hospitality) through the preparing of and sharing of a three course evening dinner. The venue is provided by Auckland City Mission, who also provide the kitchen facilities and the food to prepare. Over the weeks the numbers of participants have steadily increased from four to around fourty. The feedback has been very positive and there is an expectation that these numbers will continue to increase steadily.
The simple act of sharing in a dinner breaks down barriers and provides an opportunity for new connections to be made. In this safe and positive environment, the Vinnies Youth Volunteers continue to nurture deep and meaningful relationships with those present. This weekly project will continue to unfold over the coming year.
Making Meals for the Multitudes: Youth Volunteers make Foodparcels for Families
Many people can go to the supermarket and purchase the food they need, but not everyone can get enough healthy food easily. This is part of the issue of food insecurity. As such, a sense of insecurity can vary from family to family. In response to a growing need for nutritionous and filling meals within Auckland, a diverse group of volunteers have been assisting the Society of St Vincent de Paul with making bulk food parcels. Some of the volunteers have also assisted in the making of labels, restocking the foodbank and filling up shampoo and detergent bottles destined for families.
This assistance comes at a welcome time as the number of families seeking assistance has all but decreased since the end of a busy Christmas season in 2019. The volunteers have been a source of energy and enthusiasm as they have seen and filled a need within the community. It is hoped that the parcels which they have made will go a long way to making sure that fewer families go hungry this month.
Homelessness remains one of the most significant impacts of the Auckland housing crisis. This entails those sleeping on the streets and in cars but can also be seen in other ways. Homelessness can also be experienced by those couch surfing or residing in emergency housing centres. James Liston Hostel is a a house and haven for those looking to transition out of homelessness. The hostel provides warm, secure rooms, two meals a day, laundry services, and access to social services and drug and alcohol counselling. Tenants can stay for up to 12 weeks and the staff work with residents to find a secure space for housing.
A contingent of volunteers from the Society of St Vincent de Paul recently hosted a christmas dinner for those residing at James Liston Hostel. The intention was to provide a hearty meal for those who go without, but more than anything an opportunity to connect and share stories. The volunteers enjoyed creating a space to connect and learn more about the lived realities of homelessness. It was sobering to hear stories of trauma and grief, but also stories of hope for what lies ahead for the residents. The volunteers left the service initiative feeling a sense of fullness, as this was a concrete experience of where donations of the feed a family appeal go towards. It goes towards helping individuals such as those at James Liston Hostel to be fed and recognise the gift of coming together for Christmas.
A Season of Giving: Volunteers at Vinnies Centre
At present the Newton foodbank is currently supporting over 5000 people. This consists of babies, children, youth, parents and grandparents. This Christmas The Society of St Vincent de Paul are putting out more foodboxes than ever. Within the past 10 days alone, more than 250 foodparcels have been distributed. These are boxes of groceries that include dry goods, fresh vegetables, 5 kgs of meat and gifts for the whole family. The Society of St Vincent de Paul are extremely grateful for the donations that have been coming through, as well as the youth volunteers who have turned up in groups to put the boxes together. More supplies were brought in and a further 150 foodparcels were able to be made. This has ensured that families are well fed and catered to this Christmas season.
Parishes Gather to Support Families in Need
At the beginning of the Christmas Season, the Society of St Vincent de Paul are finding that more and more working families are seeking support in budgeting and food support. By the time that they come to our food bank, they’re often broken and hurt. They have tried everything and there is a deep sense of shame as they have had to explain their struggles countless times to others. There have been many stories shared about parents keeping their kids at home because they do not want others to know they have nothing to put in their children’s lunch boxes. In response to this, an appeal has been made within parishes; seeking the support of the community to care for those who worry about where their next meal might come from. It is hoped that the full proceeds of this appeal will go towards feeding families right throughout the Christmas season. The Society of St Vincent de Paul give thanks for Good Shepherd parish in balmoral and St Michael’s Parish in Remuera for their generosity this week.
Each Christmas season, the Society of St Vincent de Paul across Auckland serve over countless families who are in desperate need. Each family recognise the struggle that comes from times of crisis, and so the Society seeks to provide immediate alleviation through food assistance. Through the ‘Feed a Family’ appeal, the journey of service has been deepened by providing greater sources of nutritional food. It has also allowed for service providers to more clearly identify other needs that are not being met. This brings forth a more informed and familial sense of assistance for families.
The Christmas ‘Feed a Family’ appeal is now active at St Patrick’s Cathedral parish, who have recently pledged their support so that families can experience the coming season with joy. The donations of this appeal will therefore ensure that families can enjoy festivities without worrying where their next meal might come from.
Learning Service Through Experience
As part of their annual social outreach day, the students of Baradene College spend the day visiting different organisations who are dedicated to working to improve the lives of others. Baradene students chose to visit the new centre today to learn more about the food bank which aids families in need, as well as how the youth programme supports local schools in their service projects. The preparation for the Christmas appeal has led to a surge of activity at the new Gundry St Vinnies Centre in Auckland. Therefore it was with the utmost gratitude that the students aided in the foodbank, packing foodboxes and also packing treat bags for children attending a Vinnies community event over the coming weekend.
The Christmas Appeal Begins!
Recently the Society of St Vincent de Paul in Auckland launched the annual Christmas ‘Feed a Family’ Appeal for those in need. This appeal is particularly for the families that we have journeyed alongside throughout the year. The team have already begun sorting and getting to work on the database of names which have been compiled.
Last year, the Vinnies centre was inundated with requests for food by families and individuals, from those living alone and/or in emergency housing facilities. We are hopeful that through the generous donations of the ‘Feed a Family’ appeal we will be better equipped to support those who seek our assistance. We give thanks for the generous donors and volunteers who are making this Christmas appeal happen.
The Food bank and youth offices have now moved to a new premises on 12 Newton Street, Auckland. The foodbank is up and running and will operate between 10am – 3pm from Monday to Friday.
On the 16th of September, the team bid farewell to the Kingsland building, a home for the Auckland Central Vinnies since 1991. The foodbank at the time supported 200 people, but over the years this has grown exponentially. Prior to the closure of the building earlier this month, the foodbank was supporting over 3,500 people. The larger premises offers more space which is suited for the storage and provision of bulk foodparcels. It also houses the youth team as well as a space for formation and gatherings. The new space now contains a dedicated reception and space for families and individuals who seek assistance.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul give thanks for this vision and how this journey has come to fruition. Special thanks is given to our donors: the East Auckland St Vincent de Paul and leaders; the Auckland governance board who have spent years working on the relocation plans; the volunteers who made a significant contribution in moving the centre; the Onehunga shop manager and driver who offered truck and transport services, and last but not least Mike Phillipe who sourced all the warehouse racking for the building. This new space means a new chapter in the unfolding of the St Vincent de Paul operations within Auckland. The Society gives thanks for all those who continue to support the movement.
Cans for Christmas Donate over 22,000 Cans to the Society of St Vincent de Paul
Moved by a call to bring the community together, Cans for Christmas established itself in 2015. It is a project that mobilises Catholic Schools around New Zealand to donate cans of food to their local St Vincent de Paul foodbank. The response was tremendous. More than 22,000 cans were collected within the space of a few weeks.
A number of the Vinnies Youth Team were onsite to help with sorting and packing the cans, all of which will be destined for families in need within their respective communities over the Christmas period. “Its a fantastic feeling to see how much all the schools donate… and what the people give”, says Billy Hadnett, team leader of Cans for Christmas. As a teacher, Billy knows all too well the reality of those who come to school hungry.
This can collection comes at a timely moment as the winter season proved demanding with relation to families seeking support from the foodbank. The ‘Feed a Family’ Appeal relies on the generosity and initiative of projects such as Cans for Christmas as this allows for stronger support networks to be established.
Nurturing Realities: Nutritional and Accessible Food
It is estimated that 1 in 100 people within New Zealand are homeless. Based on the street count, it’s estimated there were approximately 800 people unsheltered across Auckland on September 17, 2018. Approximately 48 percent of these people are wahine (women) who have no choice but to sleep it rough or live in precarious, transitional housing. There are countless stories of vulnerability, of suffering from harassment, violence and abuse. There is a pervading sense of anxiety for those who have no place to call home. Women often have to either keep to themselves, band together or have a partner to ensure their safety.
In response to the harsh realities of homelessness within Auckland, Vinnies have been meeting with Auckland Citymission leaders and members of Te Miringa Trust to roll out a new initiative to care for the wahine who need a safe space to relax, have dinner and just to be with other women.
As part of the new initiative, female volunteers from Vinnies and Te Miringa Trust volunteer each Tuesday to provide manakitanga (hospitality) through the hosting of an evening dinner.
The venue is provided by Auckland City Mission, who also provide the kitchen facilities and array of ingredients. A team of 6 Vinnies work diligently to prepare a hot scrumptious meal of “Fusion food”, designed to be nutritionous and filling.
Through a simple dinner, the these women are invited to form close connections with one another, to share experiences of women who have been there, done that; who know that connection building isn’t simply one and done. But rather, about nurturing healthy relationships and banding together as a family.
A Birthday Wish Come True
Recently, John Metherall – CEO of Catholic Social Services – came to visit the local Vinnies foodbank. Catholic Social Services is the social outreach agency of the Diocese of Auckland. They are committed to the positive wellbeing of those within the community. Alongside John was Helen Porter who gifted a donation of money that was fundraised on her birthday. The proceeds of this donation from Helen and all those who contribute to the ‘Feed a Family’ appeal will go towards ensuring meals are provided for families in need.