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Iwi groups helping feed Wairarapa families

Volunteers delivering food parcels across Wairarapa during Easter. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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Rising unemployment and people being unable to work during lockdown had demand for food parcels at a record high.

Melissa Ihaka, of the Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Board, said there was a real need for the food parcels in the region in addition to other providers like the Masterton Foodbank, who at one stage were close to running out of food.

For the past 10 weeks, a group of volunteers have been helping prepare and distribute about 300 food parcels each week to families in need around Wairarapa.

She said the food parcel programme started with Kahungunu Ki Wairarapa providing dry goods, and Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated and Tihei Mauri Ora donating squash and apples to be distributed. But it quickly grew from there.

“We just started with fruit and vegetables, but now we’ve also got meat and dry goods. Just the basics really.”

They hoped the programme would encourage kaumatua and vulnerable people to stay home and keep safe during Alert Level 4.

She said the scope of the programme had changed as the weeks wore on and the effects of covid-19 were amplified.

“We’re starting to see more of the newly unemployed coming through now,” she said. “It’s a mixture of everyone really. We do everybody. We’re trying to help the whole community.”

Volunteers delivered packages across the whole region.

“We go all the way to Martinborough. We also go up the coast – Homewood, Tinui and a few other places.”

She said it had mostly grown through word of mouth.

One thing which distinguished them from other groups and helped make it more accessible was the fact that they don’t rely on referrals from other agencies, she said.

“Really all we ask for is an address. [There’s] no questions asked because it’s hard enough for people to ask for help without then having to go through a whole bunch of questions too.”

Ihaka was grateful to all those who had volunteered their time and offered resources to help with the programme.

They hoped to continue the scheme for the next four weeks.

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