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Foodbank creates community hub

June 30, 2019

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Foodbank creates community hub

The foodbank at Oranga Community Centre is a truly cooperative enterprise, helping create positive social change by nourishing those in need.

About 25 families turn up regularly on Thursday afternoons for emergency food parcels. Most of the food is supplied by KiwiHarvest, a food rescue organisation that collects surplus food from supermarkets, producers and wholesalers, and donates it to foodbanks nationwide.

At the Centre, volunteers from Synergy Projects, Tō Wāhi, and other local social service agencies pack the food and distribute it to families and individuals.

The service is more than just a foodbank, though, says Centre coordinator Jade Davis. It’s an opportunity to get to know the local community, and find out what kinds of programmes and support will meet people’s practical needs. “We want to understand the context of people’s situations and what is most important to them in their circumstances, whether it’s education, employment, health, housing, family, or cultural identity. We can assume we know what people’s priorities are, but it’s different for everyone. That information is gathered through conversations with people who come to the Centre. We’re saying, ‘Tell us what you need. Help us to help you’,” he said.

One example of the integrated service the Centre offers is the ‘Healthy Cooking on a Budget’ workshops. These are run by Te Papapa Preschool manager Liz Ferris, on Thursdays, in four-week blocks. Those who attend learn how to make nutritious meals, using items from the previous week’s food parcels.

The Onehunga branch of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau runs a satellite service at the Centre on the same day, and facilitators from the iCare Support Group are also on hand to talk to people and pick up on any other support needs. Jade says foodbank helpers have noticed a number of people coming from outside Oranga and Onehunga for emergency food parcels.

“We’ve had to introduce a form of registration so we can prioritise residents from the local neighbourhood. We would never shut the doors to others but if you live outside the area, talk to us and we’ll help you find other foodbank and support services in your own area,” Jade says.