Te Awamutu food charity Kai For All say many are continuing to struggle in the wake of the Covid pandemic.
“It has gotten worse, things have become much more bereaved,” said the organisation’s founder and coordinator Tuhiao Halling.
Tuhiao, 65, founded Kai For All – marketed as Kai 4 All – with her husband John, 75, after New Zealand’s first lockdown in 2020 – their son Dion is a volunteer also.
From February to April this year, the charity delivered over 1000 meals to residents in isolation.
Since then, they have continued to offer food parcels to people in need, using the Scout Hall to do so every Tuesday and Thursday.
Last Tuesday, they had 25 food parcels available, but within 20 minutes of opening the hall’s doors, all of them were claimed.
Tuhiao, who used to be a family consultant, said it is evident that residents are continuing to struggle.
“We have a lot of elderly people who come here… they tell us their stories, many have lost their wives, husbands, jobs, or are sick. Sometimes they ask for us to pray for them.”
The volunteers know many clients on a first name basis, which is rewarding and helps the clients with their confidence, Tuhiao said.
But tragically, three regular clients have died during the past year.
“One used to live in his van, he was a beautiful man. Only in his last two weeks did he share that he had pancreatic cancer. He said, ‘I left my family because I didn’t want them to worry about me. It is just sad, he lived in his car for two and a half years before telling anybody,” Tuhiao said.
Tuhiao said that despite her Māori heritage, Kai For All does not adhere to any Māori tikanga (practices).
“It has got to be for everybody, no one should be excluded. Nor should we put our tikanga on them, because people shouldn’t only feel comfortable to come here under certain tikanga and values.”
However, she said the charity reflects the values shared in the bible chapter Matthew 25, which is akin to the words, “feed the people, clothe the people, visit the sick, and those in prison.”
“And that is what we are doing, we have quite a scriptural basis,” she said.
Kai For All is a subsidiary of the Cleft of the Rock Trust, which Tuhiao and John also founded.
They do not have a website, nor Facebook page, and attract their clients through word of mouth and community engagement.
Tuhiao said it is because of the charity’s workload that they’ve been unable to establish an online presence, but they hope to do so in the future.
She said their work is made possible through community support, government grants, and by partnering with organisations like Kainga Aroha Community House and Fresh Choice.
Waipā Networks donated three crates of food to the charity last month, which the charity is still making use of. But Tuhiao said they are always in need of more support, so they’re able to continue helping the most vulnerable.
“We do feel like the work we do is valued, but at the end of day it is not about us, it is about them.”