I’m one of those people that comedians love to make jokes about –the next quinoa or vegan latte quip I hear is going to cop the jokester a piece of my mind. When you can’t, or choose not to, eat a mainstream diet you have to become a bit creative with your cooking – modifying recipes and experimenting with new ones becomes your norm. Family dinners at our house can often start with the words “Now this is the first time I’ve made this recipe......” which has been known to strike trepidation into the hearts of a few. (I’ve been pretty happy with most of my experiments - all except the Christmas dessert made out of black beans - that went straight into the bin).
Over the years I think it’s fair to say that people have become more interested in food – we are now exposed to such a vast array of cuisines and ingredients – half of which my Grandma would never have heard of! Food is certainly something most people have an opinion on and is something many feel passionate about. It unites, divides, entertains, and of course provides what we need to fuel our daily life. Food is also something that cuts right to the heart of community – it can be used to raise much needed funds (think sausage sizzles and gala dinners) but can also be a gauge of how healthy our communities really are. In a nation where some have so much, it is confronting to know how many have so little.
Throughout the Waikato communities have responded to this need in various ways – Sharing Sheds, Community Pantries, Community Gardens, Crop Swaps, fruit tree planting and foodbanks are initiatives that can be found in most towns, and none of this would happen without volunteers. Volunteers who decided to change a situation – volunteers who decided to make something better.
Volunteering Waikato offers lots of food related roles to people who are looking to make a real impact on someone’s life. Making sandwiches for hungry kids in schools and their after school programmes, getting a group of people together for a big cookathon for Bellyful and helping The Serve feed hungry people every night of the week, are just some of the options you can find on our platform or through our corporate opportunities. Meals on Wheels drivers and neighbourhood food vans, gardeners and shoppers, governance roles and “hands on” roles - in essence we can all find a way to contribute, help and support.
I’ve been really inspired by “Good Bitches Baking” – an organisation on a mission to “make Aotearoa the kindest place on Earth”. It’s a simple concept that recognises that sometimes people can have tough times – and that sometimes a gesture from a complete stranger can make a difference. We all know how much our spirits lift when someone brings that morning tea shout to work, so a bit like that but more personal (unless you’re bringing beetroot chia cupcakes of course – then people can be a bit sceptical!)
Most of us at some stage have provided food to someone we know who has suffered loss or experienced ill health or needed an act of kindness. At an individual level we can all make a difference and at a neighbourhood and community level we can too. If you are reading this and thinking that maybe you could help change something for someone who might be hungry or not being nourished as they should then my challenge is don’t just think about it – do something. You could be the person who takes someone shopping for their weekly groceries, who makes the neighbourhood share table, and delivers that meal to someone who is home bound.
When everyone does something tangible we get to a tipping point where real, sustainable change begins to happen. The impact is not just a reduction in hungry tummies – it’s better learning outcomes, healthier families, reduced isolation, less food waste and better connected communities where people feel supported and valued. That’s the impact of volunteers.
To find out how you can get involved, visit www.volunteeringwaikato.org.nz or phone 07 839 3191.
Chris Atkinson - Regional Co-ordinator - for Seasons Magazine