Community & Environment

Claudelands’ kitchens churning out free meals

Commercial kitchens at Claudelands Events Centre are humming despite the lockdown, with more than 10,000 frozen meals already prepared, and a further 12,000 on order, to help Hamiltonians most in need.

Hamilton City Council and Montana Food and Events have partnered to support community groups who are struggling to keep up with demand for food during the lockdown.

Montana is providing the food at cost, for no profit, and Council is providing the facilities and support staff free of charge.

The support is being led by Wise Group which is co-ordinating a wider effort to provide hardship and social service support to locals during COVID-19. Food costs were initially met by the Council and are now being picked up by Civil Defence to provide welfare support for the local community. There is no charge to those receiving them.

Sean Murray, General Manager of Venues, Tourism and Major Events, said Council was proud to support the initiative which has seen community service providers, volunteers and funders come together to support Hamiltonians in need.

“We knew existing emergency food providers were struggling to keep up with the needs of the community and keep their operations going under lockdown. In some cases, the groups were seeing a 60 percent increase in demand. Council saw an opportunity to help and so we offered it.”

“We had the resources at Claudelands to support Wise Group’s wider plan in a practical way, that considered food safety, the wellbeing of our staff and volunteers and reduces some of the pressure on the existing support services,” Murray said.

In addition to the meals prepared by Montana, Council staff unable to work from home have been redeployed to pack food parcels and provide a delivery service to connect the Claudelands’ operations with community groups. The groups then distribute the meals and parcels to those in need.

Council is also providing Civil Defence expertise and helping identify areas where there is the greatest community demand.

Mayor Paula Southgate said the initiative was a great example of the city working with others to meet the urgent needs of those who need it most.

“Our staff and many others from the wider community have pulled together at this tough time, despite any challenges they are facing, to help others. This is happening right across Hamilton and it makes me incredibly proud of our city,” she said.

“I also want to thank the team from Montana who have gone above and beyond to help, including stepping up to provide the food at cost. You can’t ask for more than that.”

Hamiltonians can access meals and food parcels via a new website heretohelpu.nz. There is also mental health support, safe social connections and collection support available to those who need it. Anyone can submit a request and a support line staff member will respond.

There is no cost for the support services which are made possible by community service providers, with the help of local Waikato funders and funding trusts.

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