Foodbank all set for greater role but keen to identify those that are most in need

The doors are shut but it’s business as usual for the Raglan Foodbank, which weeks into the country’s Covid-19 lockdown says it can cope with greater demand and is actively on the lookout for those in the community running short on groceries.

Foodbank co-ordinator Marion Wright told the Chronicle this week that the step up to alert level four had been so sudden that “we don’t know who to help exactly”.

“But we are being proactive in seeking out anyone who is finding things difficult,” she added.

Marion said 16 grocery parcels were still delivered around the district – from as far south as Ruapuke to this side of the divvy – with the prerequisite zero contact last Friday, but she suspected there were more families and individuals struggling out there as a result of job losses or closed-down businesses.

“We are here to help,” she emphasised of the foodbank, which is a non-profit organisation owned and operated by Surfside Church. “This is what we do for the community … and we are well resourced.”

While the foodbank is operating remotely with new safety procedures in place during the coronavirus crisis, requests for assistance can be made by phone during its usual opening hours which are Mondays and Fridays between 1 and 3pm.

Parcels for anyone in need will then be prepared and delivered to their doorstep.

Marion herself collects the produce from the supermarkets while fellow volunteer Fiona Cutmore – who is laboratory-trained – “gloves up, masks up and sprays down” to ensure a high level of hygiene in assembling the supplies.

“Only (that) one person is touching and making up a food parcel,” Marion explains, while foodbank’s other typically more elderly stalwarts are off-duty now for their own safety.

A couple of regular volunteer drivers like Trevor Edgeworth and Sean Reid then work from spreadsheets and deliver the parcels in Surfside vans.

Foodbanks – like Civil Defence which also helps distribute food packs – are deemed an essential service at this time, says Marion. “We want to block the virus from spreading but we don’t want to block anyone from asking for help.”

She is amazed at the increased backing Raglan Foodbank has had from the community during the crisis. “Local supermarkets were quick to respond with support and said they will keep supporting us.”

Smaller suppliers like Soulfood Farm and Raglan Coconut Yoghurt have also come on board, and Marion says their lesser quantities of packaged food are actually more manageable than their bulk offerings at this time.

It means items need not be opened and the produce split between multiple food parcels as usual, she explains.

Marion reveals the foodbank’s also had “quite significant” donations, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars, deposited into its bank account. “The support is fantastic.”

She says the Raglan Foodbank will keep applying for more (help) so as not to fall short but concedes that “we are well and truly covered for the next few months”.

Anyone in the community in need of Raglan Foodbank’s help is asked to phone 825 7543 between 1 and 3pm on a Monday or Friday.     

Edith Symes