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Children fill the pantry

Students and pre-schoolers have helped take the pressure off Masterton Foodbank and feed hungry tummies thanks to a district-wide food drive this month.

Twenty-nine Masterton primary schools, colleges and early childhood centres took part, with some schoolchildren combining the ‘food-raiser’ with Casual Clothes Friday.

Posting on Facebook, students at Wairarapa College showed donations of cans, packets and other non-perishables filling boxes and overflowing tables.

Student leaders at Masterton Intermediate School [MIS] went the extra mile, volunteering at the foodbank before the donation day, to learn more about its systems and processes, including the value of sorting the food into categories.

“The student leaders gave presentations to classes about what [foodbanks] do and encouraged their classmates to bring in different items from the standard cans of spaghetti, so there is a greater variety,” MIS deputy principal Raegan Warren said.

Students sorted the food into categories before it was taken to the foodbank, a practice Warren hopes student leaders will share with other schools in the district for next year’s donation day.

Jenna Matchett, Masterton Foodbank’s manager, was grateful for the community’s generosity in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.

“We basically ran our foodbank empty in preparation for [the event] because it’s always big,” she said.

“But this year, we got more than we’ve ever had, so even in difficult times people are still giving, you know, they’re still giving back, that is so awesome.”

The annual event was started by former Masterton District Council [MDC] councillor, Frazer Mailman and current deputy mayor Bex Johnson, following a presentation about food insecurity to the council from Masterton Foodbank, Waiwaste and the community kitchen.

“We wanted to do something about it and I had a background in education. I approached the schools and they were happy for [the fundraiser] to occur,” Mailman said.

The event is now in its fourth year and he was impressed by the number of schools and centres that took part this time.

“There’s been an increase in participation on an annual basis,” Mailman said. “There are far more early childhood learning centres contributing. That’s probably the main difference between this year and last year.”

The impact of the donations was “huge”, Matchett said and meant Masterton Foodbank will not have to purchase any canned goods from the supermarket until their next big street collection in November.

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