It was an overwhelming (and somewhat emotional) experience spending the morning with the Salvation Army Royal Oak food bank team.
It was incredibly humbling talking to the people who work behind the scenes, many of whom have very little themselves.
I heard stories about mothers going without food so their children can have birthday presents.
I learnt that things many of us take for granted – like a block of cheese, coconut milk, dishwashing liquid, pasta sauce, toothbrushes, and toothpaste are considered treats and luxury items. Many families go without.
I was surprised to hear how appreciative many families would be to receive a can of tuna or a can of corned beef – and that it would feed a family!
I don’t know if it was the added buzz of receiving 15+ crates of food from The Foodbank Project (thank you wonderful donors!) but the people working in the food bank had a real sense of joy in the work they were doing.
What I really came away with was an even greater awareness of the scale of need in New Zealand. Most Kiwis have no idea how much poverty there is in our country… and that many of the people reaching out to food banks for support are everyday hardworking people (with fulltime jobs!). They earn minimum wage and have to support a family. This demographic is referred to as “the working poor” (a term I wasn’t previously familiar with). Life is incredibly tough.
And the need doesn’t go away. It’s there week after week. While many of the recipients of food parcels do only need support for a short period of time, there will be another family next week, and another, and another….
The Royal Oak Salvation Army alone gives out 11–40 food parcels every single day of the week (and it’s not even the largest food bank in New Zealand!). That’s up to 40 families just in their neighbourhood who don’t have enough to get by.
What I’ve come away with is a strong realisation that The Foodbank Project is incredibly important. Sure, it’s the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, and I would love to explore meaningful ways to help people get out of poverty for good, but, in the meantime, there are people in need and they’re desperate.
I came up with the idea for The Foodbank Project because my wife and I regularly put items in the food bins in our local supermarket. Seeing how few items were in the food bins, I wondered if people might give more generously if we could create an online platform for donating that better showed the magnitude of need as well as what is being given. My initial idea was to create simple infographics to represent both need and what is being provided. This is something we will continue to develop on the website.
The challenge now is how can we spread the word of The Foodbank Project and how can we encourage people to donate regularly? Even just a few food items a week will make a difference in someone’s life.
We hope in the next couple of weeks to release a feature that will make it possible to set up a recurring donation of food items. We realise this is essential.
In the meantime, please give generously. And please tell your friends and family about the project.