Bev Jack, Lyn Tankersley, and Lyn Patterson. PHOTO/EMILY IRELAND
Children shouldn’t have to go to bed on an empty stomach.
And this winter, they won’t have to thanks to a new initiative spearheaded by the Wairarapa Community Centre, WaiWaste and Masterton FoodBank.
Going under the banner of Wai Kai, the purpose is to provide ready meals to residents facing emergency or crisis situations.
Meals will consist of whatever donated ingredients come to hand, topped up with pantry staples.
Wairarapa Community Centre manager Bev Jack said the concept followed in the footsteps of the successful Soup To Go initiative last year, which was run for three months over winter.
“[Soup To Go] was a soup kitchen to meet the needs over the winter period of families that were hungry,” Bev said.
“At the end of that project, we did a review to see how successful it was and whether it met the need at the time. “Over that three-month period, the community’s need was being addressed, but that need doesn’t stop overnight.
“Unfortunately, the Soup to Go initiative did stop overnight because we didn’t have the funds to continue it.”
Bev said Masterton was a district with low income, high unemployment, high housing rates, and rental prices, “and there is so much financial pressure put on families that there is certainly that need”.
It is hoped Wai Kai will be up and running by winter – “the tentative date is June”.
“Every week, we will have cooks volunteer their time in the commercial kitchen of the Community Centre, and we will cook a meal, freeze it, and then hold it as we get those requests from agencies.
“They will come pick up the food and take it to the families.”
Bev said for Wai Kai to be successful, it would need to involve the whole community.
“There are people who have gardens that will have surplus vegetables – we can use those.
“There are groups, clubs, churches, organisations, businesses that may want to do a community day – we challenge them to come to us and cook for a day.
“We intend this project to be ongoing whilst the need is there. This is not a three-month project. We will continue to go until our agencies tell us that need is no longer there.”
Masterton FoodBank co-ordinator Lyn Tankersley said the poverty line in the region was “moving up into the middle class”.
“We are continuing to provide food parcels for people in our community . . . but the number has dramatically increased.
“We fed 946 people in the first two weeks of April.
“It has been a really big month for us, doing an average of 18 parcels a day.”
She said Wai Kai would not “take away” from the cause of the FoodBank, or any other local initiatives.
And the Wai Kai concept has the seal of approval from Masterton mayor Lyn Patterson who said she “[takes her] hat off to all the organisations that are getting behind this”.
“I suppose the sad part for me is that we actually need it in the first place.
“I’m really worried when I hear Bev and Lyn talk about a growing need.
“There’s a part of me that is sad we have these families going through this, but that is the reality for a lot of people in our community and what the agencies deal with every day.”
She said she would love for everybody to “get behind” Wai Kai – “anything we can do to help is good”.
“Kids can’t go off to bed on empty bellies or off to school on empty bellies.”
If you would like to be involved with Wai Kai, contact Bev at the Wairarapa Community Centre on (06) 377-1022 or [email protected]