Merryn Hamilton – with her egg poster and recipes. PHOTO/MAZZ SCANNELL

MAZZ SCANNELL

When a father of two came into Masterton Food Bank and said he didn’t want a chicken because he didn’t know how to cook it, volunteer Merryn Hamilton realised there was something she could do to change people’s lives.

“It was a lightbulb moment – I wanted to do something that worked for the people we support,” Hamilton said,

Taking the father’s predicament to heart, she has developed a range of recipes and includes them in food parcels, making sure all the necessary ingredients are also present.

When the food bank received a large quantity of apples, Hamilton made sure each parcel included apples, sugar and a recipe for stewed apples.

Hamilton, 22, first volunteered at the food bank when she was at school.

“I started with the Christmas parcel delivery run.

“Helping at the food bank allowed me to interact with people and the different agencies. I could talk to people and tried to think about how I could help – it’s developed from there.”

Food bank manager and co-ordinator Lyn Tankersley called Hamilton “an angel” and a “volunteer extraordinaire”.

“She has changed the way people think about food.

“Families are excited about what they are going to have for dinner, because it’s all there – the ingredients and the recipe.”

The first recipe was four ways to cook eggs. The leaflet proved popular and Hamilton branched out to include meals and desserts.

“If someone donates canned lentils, I will incorporate them into a recipe. They are a low-cost grocery item, and the next time the family are at the supermarket they will have confidence to buy them because they know what to do with them,” Hamilton said.

She has enough recipes to compile a cookbook covering family meals, desserts and healthy snacks, which she hopes to have available by the end of the year.

Hamilton fits volunteering around her university holidays – on Monday she was sorting eggs into cartons.

In her spare holiday time, she is renovating a large dolls’ house for the food bank.

“A lovely old lady donated it.

“We plan to raffle the house to raise funds and buy more food. It’s a large house – it takes two people to move it.”

The food bank is always grateful for donations.

“They need everything and accept everything. If you wanted to make your donation special, they are always short of toothpaste and soap.”