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Village Community food bank expects demand spike heading into winter

With winter approaching and Covid-19 looming across the globe, here in Aotearoa many families, especially Pasifika and Māori, are worried they won’t have enough money to keep their households fed and warm. One organisation doing its part to help is the Village Community Services food bank in Avondale run by La’auli Sir Michael and Lady Maliena Jones. Soana Aholelei reports.

When it comes to supporting their community, the Joneses are hands on.

“We’ve gone with essentials that families would use, we’re thinking in mind families with young children… We’ve got enough cereals because kids can clean out the cereals,” says Lady Maliena.

“It’s just your basic things to have in the cupboard to make food, and then in our other bag, we’ve just got the toiletries and then we’ve got quite a lot of tinned food.”

Opening one of the freezers, La’auli says they receive meat from farmers all around the country, even from the deep south.

“They’re a group of Christian farmers, they love what we do, and they send up food in boxes, everything from the best cuts to beef bones.”

In the produce section, La’auli says they also get a range of donated goods.

“We also get the likes of kūmara that’s gifted by the Delta collective, so we’re really grateful.

“We’re just in awe of the goodness and charity and the aroha of Kiwi companies and individuals.”

Lady Maliena says since they started the Village Community Trust, she has sadly seen a lot of desperate families.

“We do get those desperate cries heading into the weekend; ‘I’ve got no food, please, please help.’ And as best as we can, if we can give a little extra, we try to do,” she says.

The Joneses make it easy and private for families to drop off and collect food parcels. They have a booking system on their Facebook page which families can use for a discreet pickup.

“We want to honour their mana and their dignity,” La’auli says.

The Village Community Services Trust was originally set up in 2002 to help the young people. But since the food bank branch opened its doors 12 years ago, La’auli says their priorities have changed,

“We’ve always had a heart, Maliena and I, particularly for the most vulnerable in our community,” he says.

“One of the first programmes we had was just a drop-in centre on a Friday night, and then we realised that some of the issues that we were having to deal with and work with really came from the home.

“We knew that, but then it allowed us to build relationships into the home, and I think that’s where we started to extend the reach of our services.”

When Covid-19 hit last year, the Joneses found it hard keeping up with demand. But thanks to donations and an abundance of volunteers, which even included Auckland Blues rugby players, they have managed to cope.

With winter approaching, the Village is here to support the community, and the Joneses know Covid-19 could strike again at any time.

“We love those families, so we’ll do the very best to meet the need of every single family that needs to obtain food packages, particularly as we go into winter and beyond,” La’auli says.

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