New parents know how challenging those first few weeks with a baby can be. Sleepless nights and juggling the demands of a newborn are even more of a struggle without the support of whānau. Since 2009, the charity Bellyful West Auckland has prepared and delivered delicious, nutritious, free meals to families with babies or young children who need support.
Bellyful is part of a nationwide network, and demand for the service is particularly high in The West. A post-Covid baby boom combined with the Auckland floods has kept Bellyful super busy in 2023.
‘Each month, we cook and deliver around 200-250 meals to whānau in need,’ reports Tracy Cox, Branch Coordinator for Bellyful West Auckland. She adds that the charity also provides free meals to the families of premature babies at Waitākere Hospital Special Care Baby Unit. ‘Having a tasty and healthy meal available makes a big difference to parents at such a stressful time,’ says Tracy.
Bellyful is run by a dedicated team of volunteers. Each month, these special people come together in a cookathon to prepare the meals with all ingredients purchased from local supermarkets. These easy-to-heat family favourites include beef lasagna, Bolognese sauce, red lentil and tomato soup and macaroni cheese. The recent addition of a gluten and dairy-free vegetable curry has also been a hit. Meals are packaged and stored in Bellyful’s community freezers before being delivered by volunteers to families needing support.
Bellyful works closely with support agencies like Plunket, midwives and the district health board. However, whānau can also self-refer to the service or make a referral on behalf of a friend or family member. Just go to the website and complete a simple form.
One local to benefit from Bellyful’s fantastic services is Nicole. Her beautiful son Benedict was born via C-section, and Nicole says Bellyful’s meals were a lifesaver for her and her husband, especially after he returned to work. ‘I don’t know what I would have done without Bellyful,’ Nicole declares.
Tracy estimates that the cost of the cookathons is, on average, $1,000 each month. As a charity, Bellyful relies entirely on donations and the support of funders. The organisation approached the Your West Support Fund for help, and the $10,000 funding has made a massive difference.
‘The incredible support has enabled us to help fill the bellies of so many whānau in need. We are so grateful,’ advises Tracy.
Bellyful is always on the lookout for volunteers. Whether participating in a cookathon or delivering meals, volunteering for Bellyful is a rewarding experience. ‘We see people from all walks of life, ages, cultures and backgrounds come together to help their fellow West Aucklanders,’ says Tracy.
So, if you have a few hours to spare, why not get involved in this fantastic organisation. Check out Bellyful’s website for more information.