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Feed Tairawhiti back helping the hungry

A group created to feed the hungry in the community has gone through a time of renewal due to the global pandemic.

Covid-19 alert levels meant Feed Tairawhiti volunteers were not able to serve hot meals to the homeless and vulnerable whanau for a few months.

With the entire country now at Alert Level 1, Feed Tairawhiti resumed its service at Heipipi Endeavour Park last weekend.

At its peak, the group distributed meals four nights a week, with volunteer numbers at around 50.

However, the Covid-19 lockdown forced the group to postpone its activities and during this time it had another look at how it operated.

Feed Tairawhiti was created out of a desire to help people living rough in Gisborne.

In 2015, Gisborne women Tash Stumpf, Susan Libline, Dot McKillip and Vanessa Spooner combined efforts and began feeding Gisborne's homeless at the old police station in Peel Street.

They pulled food from their cupboards and freezers and set about providing a hot meal every week.

“We would get people walking from Elgin, Kaiti and Riverdale to eat, so we made sure it was somewhere central,” said Ms Stumpf.

It came with challenges. They had to move four or five times around the city due to complaints from residents, Gisborne District Council or the police.  

The group's pre-Covid location at Heipipi Endeavour Park outside the police station was not ideal. In bad weather their customers would have to shelter under the veranda of the police station.

“Just because whanau are homeless does not mean they are criminals or have no dignity, and having to serve a meal while they sit lined up along the wall of the police station is degrading,” said Ms Stumpf.

The impact of Covid-19 has made this year the most challenging yet.

However, Feed Tairawhiti has received much-appreciated support from local non-profit organisation Te Hui Amorangi Ki Te Tairawhiti since 2018.

Te Hui Amorangi Ki Te Tairawhiti put its hand up to provide administration assistance in collaboration with social services provider Te Aka Ora Charitable Trust.

“Feed Tairawhiti is a demonstration of who we are meant to be as good neighbours and a supportive community,” said Te Aka Ora chief executive Joleen Perry said.

“There has always been a lot of goodwill from groups to collaborate, not compete with other groups who are feeding the homeless but to join a community kaupapa that runs with minimal fuss and attention. 

“We are pleased to offer what support we can to co-ordinate and support volunteers.

“Covid has given us the chance to regroup, reach out to volunteers and develop a plan for Feed Tairawhiti in the spirit that it has operated in over the last six years.”

If you are keen to volunteer or support in any way, go to the Feed Tairawhiti Facebook page.

“We are grateful for the generous volunteers, groups, individuals, marae, families, bread-makers and sponsors,” Ms Stumpf said.

manaakitanga (generosity): Maewa Thornton prepares takeaway dinners for Gisborne's homeless. Picture supplied.