Siu and her Mum were among those who came for the first free lunch offered by the “Serving Spoons” at the St John’s church hall in Orewa on February 28.
Siu, her husband, mother and four children live in a four bedroom house that they can hardly afford. They were asked to leave a cheaper accommodation because they were told it was overcrowded. Though she has a good job, her pay is just enough to cover the rent with little left for other needs. “Sometimes, we go without food. But I tell my children, if they study hard, they will be able to get good jobs and have a good future,” she said.
She requested anonymity. Her husband has a heart disease and can’t work.
“He has a doctor’s appointment,” she said. “If it were not for that, he would be here as well.”
Serving Spoons is a parish initiative led by a group of women who decided to respond to a need they are increasingly seeing in their seemingly well-off community.
Valentina Pereira, Cath Copley, Theresa Fouche, Catherine Birt and Julie King made up this group.
It was Ms Pereira who approached Ms Fouche about the idea initially.
“I was reading all these articles that were popping up about families struggling financially. I watched a video about this lady. At the end of the week, she only had about $28 left,” she said.
She brought up the idea of providing nutritious meals with fresh fruit and vegetables to Ms Fouche, parish secretary of St John’s.
Ms Fouche said she “noticed an increase in the number of people coming to the parish to seek help. That sparked the idea when Valentina came to me”.
They got in touch with Ms King, founder of Love Soup, a charity that provides nutritious meal for the hungry.
Ms King confirmed there was a definite need in their area. “We got together for a meeting. We were all on the same page. We wanted to feed people with good, healthy nutritious food in good company,” she said.
Ms Fouche came up the perfect name for their initiative, Serving Spoons. Ms Copley designed the logo and the flyers. Mrs Birt helped organise the food and the vegetables they served. These were cooked and plated by the chefs of Love Soup. The tables were beautifully set up to show respect for their visitors. The lunch was open to people of all faiths (or none) and there was no judgement.
Volunteers showed up on the day eager to help. A few guests came in to avail themselves of the parish’s hospitality.
“Sometimes, people are afraid to come in. Coming through those doors could be difficult for some,” Ms King said. “But they take a look and realise they are much welcome and they become family.”
Ms Copley said she was excited to help as she had experienced hardship herself as a single mother. “You don’t get love and attention with a food parcel. It is given to you but you are still on your own.
The sharing of a meal and the feeling of love is quite important. [Facing hardship] can be quite isolating,” Ms Copley said.
The group is planning to extend the invitation to lonely elderly people who would like to go out and meet other people. Loneliness, they pointed out, is a kind of poverty. “Pope Francis said, ‘Pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That’s how prayer works’. This is the call we are answering,” said Ms Fouche.