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New phase prompts food for thought

Masterton Foodbank manager Jenna Matchett spent six weeks putting together a brand-new business case for the organisation. PHOTOS/TOM TAYLOR

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Masterton Foodbank is entering a new phase of life with a change to its management and a “total overhaul” of its operations which came into effect on Monday morning.

Jenna Matchett assumed leadership of the foodbank when Lyn Tankersley stepped down in February after nearly 20 years as manager.

“Lyn created really amazing bones and foundations for the foodbank, and it’s those things that we are building on,” Matchett said.

However, she said that the foodbank had essentially operated with the same model since its establishment in 1989.

“That’s pretty scary considering how fast the world is changing.”

As a child, Matchett had volunteered with her mother at Masterton Foodbank. Now living in Martinborough, she had also volunteered at the Martinborough Foodbank.

When she accepted the role at Masterton Foodbank, Matchett was told that the organisation would need to undergo dramatic change.

The foodbank had received an initial round of Government funding post-covid-19 but would have to obtain accreditation to secure further funding.

It aimed to secure a Level 4 Social Sector Accreditation Standard, the highest level that could be achieved for its type of operation.

To achieve the accreditation, the foodbank had to ensure it was engaging with clients in a meaningful way.

Evidence for such engagement included client participation in the development of the organisation.

“I spent ages talking to people at the door with clipboards,” Matchett said.

“Once I started talking with people, we identified that we needed to make huge changes to our operations. What we were doing was not fulfilling the needs of our clients very well at all.”

Research uncovered the fact that people did not need or use certain items. Some families, for instance, would return a large portion of the cans of beans they received each week.

“We were just assuming that we knew what people needed, and we’d been doing that for 30 years. When I was a kid, I volunteered with my mum, and the parcels now are exactly the same as they were then.”

Matchett acted swiftly on the findings of the research, taking six weeks to compile a complete business case.

Matchett described the new model as being similar to Bargain Box or My Food Bag.

In their new food packs, clients would receive set essential items but could otherwise choose what they wanted.

Staple items included cereal, bread, milk, tea, coffee, and sugar.

Every client would also receive a fruit and vegetable pack and a package from Waiwaste Food Rescue which could include sweet treats, proteins, frozen goods, or whatever had been donated at any given time.

“That’s like the sparkle – that’s the cool stuff.”

Clients could then opt into additional packs based on their family’s needs, such as lunchbox items, gluten-free packs, or personal care packs.

Clients with no fixed abode might also require different kinds of support if they did not have access to the same type of cooking facilities other people had.

“The best solution I could come up with was to try to give our clients more dignity, give them more choice, and more involvement in their family needs.”

The foodbank had a database of client information dating back to its establishment in 1989.

The data kept clients’ identities private but showed a dramatic growth in demand over the years.

“We’re just growing bigger and bigger … there’s a reason why people turn up here: they can’t afford housing, they can’t afford transport, jobs aren’t the same – and a lot of these people work 40 hours a week.”

Volunteers had been supportive of the changes to the foodbank model.

Foodbank secretary Rowan Anderson said the new system would be more straightforward for the volunteers packing the items.

Although she said the system might need tweaking along the way, the changes were overwhelmingly positive.

“Jenna has put an amazing amount of thought into how it’s going to work … This is a wonderful start.”

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