Full tum­mies for kids

Taupo & Turangi Weekender - - Front Page - Rachel Can­ning

A food short­age in the Wal­lace house­hold be­came the in­spi­ra­tion for a char­ity that feeds hun­gry kids in Taupo¯ play­grounds each Satur­day.

The Full Puku Pro­ject founder Nick Wal­lace says ear­lier this year his fam­ily had a hard week with very lit­tle food.

“Af­ter that, we knew how it felt to go hun­gry.”

Not long af­ter, Pak’n Save had One Dol­lar Week. Nick got his friends to spend $20 each and then gave out ham­pers to hun­gry fam­i­lies.

“That’s how it started. I wanted it to be about the kids.”

Sur­rounded by hun­gry kids when he grew up in Levin, Nick says that chil­dren have no choice on what their par­ents spend money on and of­ten there was none left over for food.

“I wanted no judge­ment on it. I wanted to just of­fer what was needed, with­out any hid­den agen­das. Other places that of­fer food can make you feel de­graded and that’s what I didn’t want.”

The full­time glasshouse worker at Turn­ers & Grow­ers in Re­poroa has a new baby and an 18 month old plus three older kids at home, and says he is al­ways tak­ing in his neph­ews as his wife, Su­san Wal­lace, is too kind-hearted and won’t turn any­one away. He is of Nga¯ti Ma­niapoto and Nga¯i Tahu de­scent, and his wife is Nga¯puhi.

Friends in the Ad­vance Church pro­vided prac­ti­cal help to turn his vi­sion into re­al­ity, and he says he couldn’t have done it with­out men­tor­ing from Vanessa Healey who has ex­pe­ri­ence or­gan­is­ing lunches at Tauhara Pri­mary School, Am­ber Mur­ray who is a chef and Benoir Mid­wood-Mur­ray who does videos and pub­lic­ity.

To­gether, The Full Puku Pro­ject has come up with a for­mula that ef­fec­tively feeds 50 to 70 kids each Satur­day lunchtime, with an in­creas­ing num­ber of busi­nesses of­fer­ing to donate food.

“Since we opened it up to the pub­lic the growth has been ex­po­nen­tial. I don’t go and find them [sup­pli­ers who donate food], they usu­ally just come.”

Last Satur­day Catch 22 Takeaways sup­plied lunch, Count­down sup­plies food ev­ery week and M21 Meats pro­vided sausages for a Fun Day. He says Mitre 10 Mega Taupo¯ and Bai­ley Quinns Styling have also been gen­er­ous. Fundrais­ing ef­forts are go­ing to­wards mak­ing Christ­mas ham­pers and he says it’s go­ing to be hard putting to­gether a nom­i­na­tion list for who gets the ham­pers.

Nick stresses The Full Puku Pro­ject is sep­a­rate from the church and giv­ing out the lunches is the end game of a highly or­gan­ised op­er­a­tion. Am­ber knows the food safety rules and also times it so that food prepa­ra­tion fin­ishes 15 min­utes be­fore­hand. Two teams go out to four parks to dis­trib­ute the food over a half hour pe­riod, and Nick says they have learned the best way is to tell the young­sters to take the food, oth­er­wise they can stand back.

“We say, ‘come grab this’. We see the shy ones and wave them to come over. If they want more than one, we just hand it over.”

His wife and three older chil­dren of­ten give out the food. Nick says the kids are more com­fort­able ac­cept­ing the lunch parcels from those their own age.

They are look­ing at find­ing peo­ple who live near the parks to keep the lunches. He says this will al­low the kids to come when­ever they want.

The food is al­ways dif­fer­ent. The last menu was ham and cheese buns, fruit, chips and bars. Some­times they do hot cooked food, and have done na­chos and pizza.

Nick says that he sees that for some fam­i­lies drug ad­dic­tion is a prob­lem but stresses it is his over­all view that par­ents are not ne­glect­ful.

“The cost of liv­ing out­weighs what peo­ple earn. Many par­ents work and the fam­i­lies have noth­ing. Rents have gone up $90 to $100 this year and wages are the same.”

Work­mates at Turn­ers & Grow­ers have brought an aware­ness that there is a need in Kain­garoa and Tu¯rangi, and he has plans to ex­pand the pro­ject into these ar­eas.

He says that he can’t quite be­lieve how well it has all come to­gether and says his Mum would say ‘if you keep it hum­ble, God will bless it.’

“And she tells me over and over and over!”

■ The Full Puku Pro­ject will be dis­tribut­ing lunch packs this Satur­day.

1pm-1.30pm at the Park­dale Re­serve on Rich­mond Ave and at the Taupo¯ Skatepark. 1.30pm-2pm at the Pi­hanga Re­serve and at the Brice St Re­serve.

If you give some­thing for free, then give it freely. It shouldn’t come with con­di­tions.” ” Nick Wal­lace.

Photo / Rachel Can­ning

The Full Puku Pro­ject founder Nick Wal­lace pic­tured at his Re­poroa work­place Turn­ers & Grow­ers.

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