As the fires burned through the Nelson bush, hearing that some firefighters were going hungry led the volunteers of Bellyful Nelson to swing into action to feed them. “Initially I got in touch with the fire team and let them know that we had some commercial grade lasagne available,” says Sarah Kerby, Branch Coordinator. “We saw a need and knew that Bellyful was uniquely placed to meet it.”Nelson fire photo – credit Dawn Gaull
“A lot of our team have partners that are involved,” adds Sarah. This includes their Cookathon Coordinator, Corina Mackay whose husband is a firefighter.Corina commented for the online news forum The Nelson App. She said, “We haven’t seen him much this week. I wish I was out there on the frontline too, so it’s nice to be able to support the efforts by putting food together for the firefighters.”
Volunteers preparing sanwiches for emergency crew alongside meals for families at the Cookathon
Bellyful Nelson’s first cookathon was at the end of July 2018 and now they have almost 50 volunteers. So, on top of their cookathon they had already planned, they ‘whipped up’ 450 sandwiches. They then found that it wasn’t just the firefighters who needed feeding but the road crews, and volunteers working to support families who had to evacuate their homes.
“Once people heard about this, restaurants got in touch and we helped them cook in their kitchens. Corporates started donating and other local businesses got in touch offering food so a group of our volunteers began collecting stuff. We seemed to become a coordinating point for getting food out there,” says Sarah. “It’s so special how we managed to pull something like this together in just two days,” she adds.
Bellyful Nelson volunteers at the branch opening Sarah Kerby with baby William
Radio New Zealand (RNZ) heard about the work the Nelson team were doing and headed to the Saxton Fields Football Clubroom kitchen to talk with them. Taking a few minutes away from her team, Sarah gave an interview, all the while wearing her apron, hair net and rocking her youngest William in his pram.
Sarah told RNZ listeners about Bellyful usually helping families with newborn babies, or famillies with young children who have a family member with a serious illness. Bellyful is all about being there for families. She believed that doing what they could to support families and their community at a time of civil emergency was the right thing to do. The Bellyful volunteers were concerned when they learned that some people were working 15 hour shifts without food.
“People really want to help, says Sarah. “We’ve been given tons and tons of ham, mustard, chicken and more for the sandwiches. We’ve also had people donate money through the Bellyful Nelson Facebook page.
“We’ve had such a high profile for our work here so it’s nice for our sponsors and supporters to see that. We’re not quite the UN but it’s great to see that people can get together and do a really great job. We’ve also had a few of our kids help prepare sandwiches on Sunday and it’s good for them to see all this.
“People really appreciate us. We’re even getting stopped in the supermarket.”
When asked about how the Bellyful volunteers feel about working to put together and distribute so much food so quickly Sarah replies, “We are not stressed as we’re really well resourced. You gain amazing skills volunteering for Bellyful, and this was an opportunity for us to use them.
“Some of our group are from Christchurch [who moved to Nelson after the earthquakes]. They know what it’s like to be fine one day then have the rug pulled out from under you the next. They’ve shown huge empathy.
“When things like this happen you can feel really, really useless so doing stuff like this makes us feel like we are putting the fires out too. It can make you feel powerful at a time when you don’t have any control,” adds Sarah.