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‘We Had Nothing’: Mum-of-11 Finds Lifeline In Community Charity

When Rena hit rock bottom, she faced unemployment, was struggling to put food on the table for her children, and then their car was stolen.

The South Auckland mum now volunteers with a community service provider that helped pull them through the rough patch.

Rena and her family were assisted by Accelerating Aotearoa in 2019 - one of many community support agencies in south Auckland battling food insecurity - during one of the lowest points in their life.

After their car and most of their household belongings were stolen, Rena said they had nowhere else to turn.

“We were out of work and needed help feeding our ... family,” Rena said.

Accelerating Aotearoa stepped in and offered them food parcels, along with other essential items and services to help them get back on their feet.

“We had nothing, and having those food parcels really saved us. They really stepped in and helped us, even with the kids and school.”

Accelerating Aotearoa is a south Auckland-based charity, dedicated to addressing the inequities facing Māori and Pasifika communities.

The organisation provides comprehensive wrap-around support, including social services, educational programmes and up-skilling workshops.

Their food parcels - of which KiwiHarvest, Aotearoa’s largest food rescue organisation, is its primary source of food donations - contains fresh, frozen, and pantry items to laundry, bathroom, and kitchen supplies.

The kai allowed Rena, her late husband Hatua and their twin children, to eat healthily while they got back on their feet.

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“I’ll never forget what they’ve done for us. Once we started working again, we started helping deliver [food parcels].

“I continue to do that today, with my kids. Even though Hatua is no longer here, we’re carrying on his legacy because this would have made him proud.”

Recent data from the Ministry of Health revealed a concerning increase in food insecurity, with 35.1% of Māori children (0-14 years) living in homes where food ran out often or sometimes.

This was an 11% jump from the 2021/2022 period.

The total population of Kiwi children living in food-scarce households hit 21% – a 6.9% increase from the previous year.

Manukau councillor Alf Filipaina said stories like Rena’s family highlighted the critical role of community support groups like KiwiHarvest and Accelerating Aotearoa in addressing food security in the country.

He said it was good that a family were helped and ended up giving back. "That’s what our community is all about,” Filipaina said.

“There’s a lot of community providers out there doing great work. They are very important, they could be the difference for families having a meal instead of none.”

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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