Keeping bellies full

KAROLINE TUCKEY
Last updated 11:34 12/11/2012
Bellyfull
Mealtime help: Bellyful volunteers get together once a month to fill a freezer with meals to help out new mums. From left is Del Humphrey, Cathie Boyce and Sarah Papageorgiou in the Bellyful kitchen.

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A new charity that aims to put a hot meal on the table for new mums is seeking support.

Bellyful Hutt Valley brings together teams of volunteers to cook family meals to be delivered free to mothers with newborns and families who need a helping hand.

Coordinator Sarah Papageorgiou said Bellyful was about creating strong community links.

"Having a new baby is a great leveller and it doesn't matter what you did before becoming a mum, having a newborn is an exhausting and sometimes difficult time.

"In the past family and community would have supported you but these days often mums have very little support."

The criteria for mums to receive the support is not based on financial need.

"We deliver three frozen meals per family, and where we have it, home baking also.

"Then we follow up 10 days later to see if more meals are required and with a follow up phone call to say ‘how are you going', so it's not just about the stomach, but also your welfare," Ms Papageorgiou says.

Meals are tried and tested toddler-friendly favourites such as macaroni cheese, spaghetti bolognaise and lasagne. They are prepared during a monthly group "cookathon" at the Hutt City Baptist church, frozen for storage, and delivered by volunteers when referrals are received.

Bellyful was founded in Auckland in 2009, and started in Hutt Valley in November last year.

So far they have been operating mainly by word of mouth, said Ms Papageorgiou, but now they hoped to expand and to attract donations to match the need.

The local group already has a full quota of volunteer cooks, and in their first year delivered 255 meals to 56 families.

"Mums are just so grateful, it's some solid relief in a day that could be tiring or stressful," she said.

A Community Assistance Grant from Hutt City Council paid for set-up costs such as pots and pans. Ongoing fundraising and donations cover operational costs.

"It takes us around three hours to cook 60 meals and it costs around $350 each cookathon," said Ms Papagergious.

"Any donations go straight into a cookathon to make the meals."

To contact Bellyful with a referral or donation, email sarah.papageorgiou@bellyful.org.nz

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