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Bellyful gets Auckland Airport grant for families in neonatal units

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Sheryl Read and Suzanne MacIntosh joined the team of volunteers helping Bellyful Trust to cook meals for families with newborn children and young families. Photo / Greg Bowker

The Herald is profiling 12 charities awarded $12,000 each from Auckland Airport’s Twelve Days of Christmas campaign. Each grant is made up of $10,000 donated by generous travellers who placed unwanted currency into money boxes dotted around the airport’s terminals in 2023 and, as a cherry on top, Auckland Airport has given each charity an additional $2000.

Look in the kitchen in the neonatal units of many hospitals across the country and there’s a good chance you will find ready-to-eat, home-cooked meals available so new parents have something nutritional to eat at any time of the day or night.

The meals are cooked by Bellyful volunteers who, through food, ensure new mums and families feel the support from their community at a challenging time.

“As you can imagine, a pre-term birth can be isolating and stressful, particularly if the parents have other children they are trying to support and balance care of,” says Bellyful New Zealand Trust chief executive Fiona Purchas.

“They may arrive to the unit in the middle of the night, when there is no scheduled meal for the next 5-7 hours, so our meals ensure they can focus on caring for their baby, knowing there is food available to give them the nutritional support they need.”

Jacqui Souter is one of the team of volunteers who help Bellyful Trust to cook meals for families with newborn children and young families. Photo / Greg Bowker
Jacqui Souter is one of the team of volunteers who help Bellyful Trust to cook meals for families with newborn children and young families. Photo / Greg Bowker

Purchas says the neonatal intensive care unit at Middlemore Hospital has by far the greatest demand for its meals.

That’s why the charity has chosen to use $12,000 given by the Auckland Airport Twelve Days of Christmas campaign to help keep its freezer, supplied by the Little Miracles Trust, stocked through the next few months.

“The unit at Middlemore is a little bit different in that Bellyful doesn’t have a local branch in the area from which we would usually support the families with meals during that time.

“So, as well as feeding the parents who are there, we say if they do need extra meals for children at home while they are staying in hospital, they are able to take a few home from the unit.”

Bellyful is one of 12 charities being given $10,000 from airport travellers who put their spare foreign currency in boxes dotted around the terminals. As a cherry on the top, Auckland Airport has given an extra $2000 per grant.

Andrea Martin (bottom, right) and her team of Bellyful Trust volunteers. Photo / Greg Bowker
Andrea Martin (bottom, right) and her team of Bellyful Trust volunteers. Photo / Greg Bowker

Auckland Airport chief corporate services officer Melanie Dooney says the $12,000 will help Bellyful make 1411 meals, each feeding 2-3 people.

These are cooked by community volunteers at Bellyful’s East Auckland and Franklin branches and then delivered to the hospital.

“Without a South Auckland branch, it’s been the volunteers at East Auckland and Franklin who have been supporting Middlemore,” Dooney says.

“We are pleased the money will be able to help Bellyful provide these extra meals to the neonatal unit where we know families going through challenging times with young babies in hospital.”

Purchas says that, for families with young babies, facing additional financial pressures at Christmas, knowing that a couple of meals will be provided can make a huge difference.

“This donation makes a big difference for us in terms of being able to provide these meals that are over and above what these two branches supply to their own communities and we are grateful for this support.”

Bellyful has experienced a 25 per cent spike in demand for its meals this year. It has 25 branches across New Zealand where monthly “cookathons” are carried out by volunteers to create up to 300 hearty meals such as spaghetti bolognese, lasagne, red lentil soup and vegetable curry that can be frozen and delivered within the community.

“What Bellyful is really all about is showing and demonstrating community care for whānau through the provision of meals.

“We get great feedback that Bellyful has made mums feel cared for or provided stress relief when they need it most.”



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