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Cyclone Gabrielle: Nourished for Nil filling food parcels for needy

A dash last week from her home at Roy’s Hill to the Napier Nourished for Nil (N4N) depot by manager Jane Morgan was just the beginning for an already stretched organisation.

“I realised there would be problems when I couldn’t get across the Fernhill Bridge and then coming in from the expressway I saw the river was a couple of metres away from the actual bridge.”

Jane arrived safely at the depot and began mopping up the mess, grabbed what she needed to work from home and headed south. It soon became obvious she wouldn’t make it home.

“I gave up and went back to the depot and set to rescuing food and feeding people. I stopped at assorted places such as Wisey’s Bakery, the Pie and Patty Pan, etc and gathered up the food they couldn’t use. I then took it back to the depot to work out how to get it into circulation.” N4N teamed up with Napier Foodbank last year and is supported by a range of businesses in the region. It makes up food packs, which are picked up by different social agencies in Napier and then distributed to those in need.

“With the merger between Napier Community Foodbank and N4N, we now offer both ends of the kai support spectrum. Napier City Council organised a can drive for staff and clients to donate to us at Christmas and when they dropped it off we got talking about other ways they could support N4N. They’re keen to help out by working with me here at the depot to make some parcels up for the homeless,” Jane says.

Some supermarkets have donation bins in them, with a total of 3000kg of goods being donated since August 2022.

“Tamatea Pak’nSave is a huge supporter, each week giving us a few hundred items of stock to go in our parcels. They may be a deleted line, have damaged packaging or be close to expiry. The staff has also been encouraged to volunteer here and they are amazing.” Since the same date, Napier churchgoers have donated more than 2000kg of food and are currently donating items toward the homeless parcels, Jane says.

Quality Bakers, Starbucks, Wisey’s Pies and Vinci’s also make regular donations.

“Then there is the lady who organises friends to crochet small blankets and the people who give us surplus goodies from their gardens. We won’t say no to any donation. A lot of our parcels are also for single people - there is so much need.”

Already reliant on a regular group of volunteers to keep the N4N wheels turning, since Cyclone Gabrielle, Jane says it has been inundated with volunteers. Turning up at their usual time on the Wednesday morning to sort and bag up veges for distribution, was retired couple Don and Bet Wilson, who started volunteering last October. Single parent Nicole Graham also gives up her time once a fortnight and wanted to “pay it forward”. Bet says Don gave up his golf and needed something to do.

“So we volunteered our services. We really enjoy it.”

Jane says once word was out that she was on her own, people took it upon themselves to drop in and check on her regularly.

“I have the best landlord, he kept checking in as we’d heard tales of people desperate for food, and he was concerned for my safety. Residents kept dropping in with food they didn’t want to go to waste and orchardists were bringing apples to go into parcels. ”

One of those people turned out to be Jane’s own dad, who she claims saved the day.

“I had no idea he was coming as we had no cell or internet, but he managed to get a fire chief escort – I don’t even know how. It took them three hours to get here from Hastings. He brought one of his own personal generators on Wednesday arvo just as I was about to ponder when it was time to give all my 14 freezers full of kai away. So with his help we were able to run fridges, freezers and charge people’s phones if they needed it.”

Jane says they have been literally running every day since the cyclone happened, including on the weekend, collecting food that would’ve otherwise been dumped and getting goods pre-packed for mass distribution. “For example, on Tuesday the 14th, I was contacted by Quality Bakers who had baked all through the night but couldn’t get their trucks on the road and went out and distributed thousands of loaves of bread.”

N4N has also been dropping off parcels to evacuation centres, including when Atawhai residents were evacuated to a church in Tamatea.

“We took in tinned fish, mayo, bread, butter, tinned fruit and apricot jam for the residents to have as an ‘easy’ emergency dinner or breakfast, giving them whatever was useful from my stores here. We went to St Joseph’s with food as they were taking in people too.”

Jane says it’s been 12-hour days, seven days a week.

“We are a small depot here compared to the Hastings one that has a large crew. So it’s been pretty full-on. We’ve even had some residents of Princess Alexandra breaking down bulk stock for parcels for me. One is a volunteer here and she marshalled some friends, and they sit and bag up sugar, rice, tea bags, nappies and whatever else is needed then drop it back to me here.”

Contributors to N4N have really stepped up, Jane says.

“The generosity of both people and businesses has been humbling and quite remarkable when everyone will be hurting or affected in some way. Demand has been off the charts and I anticipate it will continue to be this way until the CD payment kicks in for those who qualify.”

Jane believes there will be a lot of disabled and elderly who had no access to support since the cyclone and couldn’t even get out to obtain help.

“So many Kiwis live week to week and already experience food insecurity so this outage and subsequent loss of food supplies, if they had any, will have a massive impact.”

Agencies can go to the Napier depot and pick up a premade parcel any time between 9am and 3pm weekdays.

“I’m not sure when normal hours will resume but I have done this to ensure they can act quickly to help as many clients as they need to.”

Although Jane has had a couple of “thugs” at the door demanding food and abusing her, on the flip side, she has a two-page list of “awesome things that have happened”.

“So many beautiful people just wanting to help those impacted by Gabrielle.” Article supplied by the NZ Herald:

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