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Bellyful celebrates 10 years of feeding hearts and tummies

Kiwi run not-for-profit charity, Bellyful, is celebrating turning 10 this year! The organisation will be hosting a series of afternoon tea and cake cutting events across New Zealand this month, to recognise the contribution of both its supporters, and its 650 volunteers nationwide!

Established in 2009 by Pukekohe mother Jacqui Ritchie, Bellyful volunteers deliver meals to families with newborn babies, and families with young children who are struggling with illness, particularly those lacking a good support network. Jacqui needed this practical support herself as a young Mum, and recognised a gap in local communities that she stepped in to fill.

Over the past decade Bellyful has grown and has provided over 120,000 free meals to 22,000 families, in 23 communities around the country.

Bellyful ambassador, Pippa Wetzell, is a long-time supporter of the organisation and believes it is a practical, heart-warming and necessary service for new parents.

"I joined Bellyful in 2011, not long after the birth of my third child. I had three kids under five so fully understood the demands on parents with young babies. I was very fortunate to have a lot of support but despite that it was hard going; I realised that it must be incredibly difficult for people who were doing it without that support. Receiving a meal by itself is a lovely treat, but Bellyful is about so much more than that. It’s about supporting a family, helping them feel like they’re not alone – sometimes the simple gesture of providing a meal can be enough to turn around a challenging day."

Bellyful volunteers prepare meals in commercial or community kitchens during monthly Cookathons. The meals are frozen ready for distribution to recipients who are referred by health professionals such as midwives, Plunket nurses and social workers, as well as friends and family.

Volunteers can sign up to support local Bellyful Cookathons or deliveries on the website, and as the organisation continues to grow these offers are always welcome.

Wetzell reflects, “I am always so heartened when I get to spend time with Bellyful volunteers, they’re often incredibly busy people who make the time to help out this wonderful charity. As you’d expect they’re a kind, generous group but the thing I always find with Bellyful volunteers is that they’re quick to have a laugh. They’re a great fun group of people to be around. One of the lovely things about Bellyful and something that really speaks to its effectiveness is that so many recipients come on board to become volunteers. So not only does Bellyful provide community support by delivering meals and kindness to families that need it but it also provides a wonderful opportunity for people in a community to come together as volunteers. It is such a simple, but effective concept, nourishing families that need support”.

Bellyful Chief Executive, Charlotte Delahunty supports this, adding, “Bellyful has the most amazing, dedicated and hard-working volunteers, who really care about their communities. As we’ve opened new Bellyful branches recently in Nelson, Wellington and Taupō, I’ve noticed the great community support that Bellyful receives from referrers, sponsors and supporters.”

Jenny was a Bellyful recipient, 8 years ago, when her second child was born almost 12 weeks premature. She says, “Although life was a blur, looking back one thing that stands out to me are the home cooked meals delivered by Bellyful volunteers. I would get home exhausted but I had dinner and baking waiting for me which the Bellyful team had prepared. Honestly, it was a god-send. Not only was it practical as it kept us well-nourished without the stress of meal prep, the sense of community I felt from this support was immense”.

Delahunty adds “Bellyful really helps promote community connectedness and more and more people are getting involved. In the past 2.5 years our volunteer network has grown by over 60% from 400 to 650. We’ve focused on providing volunteers with more training, better communication and support and this has enabled Bellyful to grow enormously to be able to reach more need in our local communities”.

Bellyful is a charity funded by donations, grants, sponsorship and fundraising. Bellyful is grateful for the valuable support from partnerships with Freedom Furniture and One Percent Collective, and significant grants from Lottery Grants Board, Sky City Auckland Community Trust and Simplicity Charitable Trust.

Delahunty says, “We’re really excited to celebrate the 10-year anniversary and show appreciation to our volunteers. We are hosting 11 simultaneous events around NZ on August 10th, with the release of the Bellyful story on video. We’d love to see more involvement from around New Zealand as we grow and support families for the next 10 years”.

For more information on how to get involved (by referring, volunteering or making a donation to Bellyful), either go to our website www.bellyful.org.nz or contact us directly on contact@bellyful.org.nz.

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