Charity rises to challenge of lockdown food demand

Volunteer Albert Seumalii brings donated food into Whangaparaoa Hall.

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Verna Lepou is among the Love Soup volunteers who stepped in to help during the lockdown.

Food rescue charity Love Soup stepped into overdrive during lockdown, taking in large quantities of food – sometimes by the pallet load – and putting together food parcels for locals in need.

Director Julie King says her team, based at Whangaparaoa Hall, has been so busy attending to the pressing need that they have not had time to crunch any numbers but that demand has grown to the point where the organisation is helping many hundreds of families every week, all over Auckland and from Paihia to Rotorua.

Until lockdown, Love Soup was not delivering to families, only to organisations that then distributed the food.

Volunteer coordinator Danny Battershill says volunteers realised soon after lockdown that the need could get out of hand really quickly.

He says the majority of need was among people who had never asked for help before.

“In first four days we did 220 deliveries because of those newly affected by Covid-19,” Danny says.

Two shipping containers were craned on site to store stock and 20 long tables were put up in Whangaparaoa Hall, which became a centre for packing parcels.

Danny said the community response was “phenomenal”.

Among the examples he gives are a lady who dropped off a trolley load of food collected from neighbours in her street in Red Beach and another who bought and donated $100 worth of produce.

He says Love Soup is putting out the call to anyone at risk, whether they may be living next door, or a family member.

“We need to look after each other,” Danny says.

Julie says the cost of helping so many people made demands on the charity’s finances.

“We spent more than $13,600 on food over the lockdown period and Level 3, because although there were many food donations, we had to purchase certain things to fill parcels,” she says. “Our petrol and transport bill for April was more than $3000.”

Cr Wayne Walker, a trustee of Whangaparaoa Community Trust, which owns the hall, says the demand could initially drop when people get back to work, but long term it may rise again.

He says that under Level 2, the food distribution centre will be moved into the hall’s supper room so that groups such as dance clubs that use the hall can get back in.

During lockdown, the Auckland Emergency Management Welfare provided a food parcel programme for Aucklanders. By April 23, 13,675 requests for this assistance had been received. Of these, 174 were from the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board area and a further 173 from wider Rodney.

“What is becoming apparent therefore, is that the demand is growing all across Auckland and that there are people now affected by the Covid-19 crisis using these services who have never had to in the past, Cr Watson says. “That is only likely to increase.”

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