No one deserves to go hungry, especially children. It’s an unfortunate reality that in New Zealand, one in five children live in households with food insecurity.
A lack of nutritious food can impact a child’s well-being; adversely affecting their health, education and development.
Ensuring no-one goes hungry, whether child or adult, is the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. Six nights a week a dedicated team of volunteers pack up a custom-made van with soup, sandwiches, Milo, juice, and fresh fruit and hit the streets of Tauranga, Mount Maunganui and Papamoa; stopping off on a schedule of street-stops to feed those in need as part of Project Fullstop.
Fullstop Keeps Tummies Full
It’s 5.30pm on a Monday, and volunteer Terry Mooney turns the white Fullstop van down Lynn Grove in Papamoa. A few honks of the horn and within minutes, kids are running over excitedly lining up awaiting their treats of sandwiches, fruit and Milo.
They’ve been looking forward to this, and there’s plenty of smiles and chatter among the crowd of little faces.
The food is swiftly given out by volunteer Lorraine Mooney, while Terry and Lorraine’s grandchildren assist with making the Milo for the kiddies.
It’s something Lorraine says is just as much a friendship as it is food given out.
“For quite a few of the kids, it’s a social thing. They come out and grab and sandwich and a drink, but they also give you updates on what they have been up to. It’s lovely to build that relationship with these children and see how they are progressing at school and what’s been happening in their lives.”
During its 12 years of operation in the Western Bay, the Food Van has been visited by more than 150,000 people and the 300 volunteers have spent 32,000 hours preparing and delivering food.
It’s a dedication volunteer Meari Vickers says brings joy to her day. Volunteering for the project since 2008, Meari organises the food and volunteers, ensuring Project Fullstop runs smoothly from prep to delivery of food.
“It’s putting caring into our community. Anyone is welcome to come and grab some food and have a chat, no matter their age or background; the food is just what brings everyone together. It’s the friendships and connections between people, between neighbours and volunteers, that is really special.”
Meari says they are always on the lookout for more volunteers to help with the project.
“The volunteers are amazing; without them we couldn’t do anything. But we can always do with more help. We have a number of teams that are families going out together, they get to see how other people live in their community as a family. Once these volunteers start, they enjoy seeing the kids and building the relationships—and the kids love seeing the familiar faces too.”
A New Van for the Vinnies
TECT funding was sought to help purchase a replacement van for the Fullstop food delivery programme.
Meari says they are truly grateful for TECT’s support in getting a new van.
“The old van was run down and costing a small fortune in maintenance and upkeep, which was money then not going out into the community.
“We are so grateful for TECT’s support in helping us purchase a new van; it is fitout with a mini kitchen, has more space for volunteers and is enjoyable to work in. Now we can get out there and fill up some hungry tummies safely and reliably.”
“We are also really grateful to ITM Tauranga who have paid for the fuel for the Fullstop van with a fuel card from the very beginning in 2006 – we couldn’t do it without their support.”
Supporting Our Community
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is a worldwide, Catholic, lay organisation with the aim of alleviating the suffering and needs of the less fortunate in our communities, regardless of race, religion or cultural background.
In the Western Bay of Plenty the Society operates the Fullstop Food Van Programme, a School Lunch Programme, a Support Centre and Emergency Food Bank; assisting those in need in many ways. Whether someone needs financial aid for medical bills, clothing, furniture, food or just a listening ear, Saint Vincent de Paul is there. Their work is fully funded by the St Vincent de Paul op-shops, and 100% of their funds goes towards their projects.
To read more about the work of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, and to learn how you can volunteer for Fullstop, visit www.bopvinnies.co.nz.