Meet Sunday Blessings Auckland, the community-driven initiative combating food insecurity

It’s always a good time to think about what you could be doing to give back to the community and those in need. It can, however, occasionally be a little confusing trying to figure out what the best use of your funds or your time will be. In this new series, we’re highlighting initiatives that we deem worthy of your support. First up is Auckland community-driven food service Sunday Blessings

The philosophy
Sunday Blessings Auckland was formed in 2018 to address its founders’ commonly held belief that no one should have to rummage through a rubbish bin for food. That same year, a report by the United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Health Organization found that 14 percent of New Zealanders experience regular food insecurity. This figure is likely to have grown significantly in the aftermath of Covid-19, and Sunday Blessings Auckland aims to combat this by providing nourishing, hot meals to those in need.

Who they are
Sunday Blessings Auckland was founded by Laurie McLeod, Audrey Van Ryn and Danielle LeGallais, and involves a rotating roster of kind volunteers who get involved every week. 

What they do
Utilising community surplus food and volunteers, Sunday Blessings Auckland feeds around 160 people every Sunday at the Ellen Melville Centre on Freyberg Place, in the Auckland CBD, having served more than 26,000 meals since it was formed. The once-a-week service is often increased with an impromptu meal when they have a surplus of food donations, and the initiative helps to alleviate food waste overall by working with local hospitality businesses to repurpose their excess food. 

Co-founder LeGallais also frequently speaks to audiences about how to get involved in community work, simultaneously aiming to help shift negative preconceptions about the un-homed. This year, as well as the food-focused aspect of Sunday Blessings, LeGallais says the team will be moving into offering advocacy services in an effort to empower the community.

Who they work alongside
Sunday Blessings partners with various other important initiatives and charities to offer even more than a nourishing meal at the gathering site. These include Orange Sky, which provides free laundry and showers to people experiencing homelessness, and registered charity Tender Love & Care.

Not-for-profit repurposed clothing initiative Koha Apparel joins Sunday Blessings once a month, and loyal yet unofficial supporters include Glendowie Primary School’s staff and students, both St Georges and Kings College rowing clubs, and community group Brown Pride NZ.

Several hospitality organisations and retailers also regularly support eliminating food insecurity with less waste practices using Sunday Blessings, including Bluebells Cakery, AUT Events and its Newsfeed Cafe, Refuel Cafe in Onehunga and more.

How to get involved
A roster on the Sunday Blessings website that is simple to complete makes it very easy to get involved. Find links to two Google Doc sheets, one to volunteer for serving and one to volunteer to cook. Anything could be on the menu, including baked cakes and biscuits, pizzas, stews, soups, sausage rolls or sandwiches. Sunday Blessings is unique in that it takes perishable items for people to eat (as long as they’re still unspoiled, of course).

It’s also a great thing to get the whole family involved in, especially young children, who will benefit from seeing the value of compassion at a young age. As the Sunday Blessings team says: “don’t underestimate the power of a warm smile from someone giving their time and food.”

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