Tuesday, 07 April 2020


Bellyful set to launch in Whitianga

A branch of the charity, Bellyful, is set to launch in Whitianga.

It all started six weeks ago when Cooks Beach resident and young mum, Fran Jack, was concerned about a fellow young mum going through a hard time. “I sent an email to a group of friends asking what we all could do to help, maybe cook the family dinner,” says Fran. “One of my friends, Emily Pavey, responded and told me about Bellyful. Emily and I started talking some more and agreed that there are many young families in Mercury Bay in need of support, especially where they have no family close by.

“Bellyful cooks and delivers meals to families with newborn babies or young children struggling with illness, or where the mums are struggling with things like depression. We contacted the charity to explore the possibility of setting up Whitianga branch and things are now well underway.”

Emily, who’s the mum of an 18-month-old daughter, says dinner time is especially hard for young families. “A knock on the door with a few nights’ frozen meals for the entire family is sometimes just what’s needed to make life that little bit easier for a family going through a tough time,” she says. “For most of my adult life, I’ve been working for charitable organisations and have known about Bellyful for quite some time. Fran’s email and her concern for her friend was just what I needed to try and make a meaningful contribution to our community here in Mercury Bay.”

Bellyful meals are cooked every few months  by a team of volunteers in a “cookathon.” The meals are then packaged, frozen and distributed to deserving families. All the meals are cooked in a commercial kitchen.  

Families can contact their local Bellyful branch directly if they’re struggling or they can be referred to the branch by well child (Plunket) nurses, midwifes, community social workers, and family and friends. “Three nights’ meals will normally be delivered to a family,” says Emily. “A ‘top up’ a few weeks later is also possible. The purpose of Bellyful really is to provide some support when a young family needs it the most.”

Bellyful was founded in Franklin (south of Auckland) in 2009. Whitianga will be the charity’s 24th branch. The Bellyful aim is to have dinner within reach of every young New Zealand family needing a helping hand.

In 2018, Bellyful volunteers cooked and delivered 22,659 meals to 3,838 families around the country.

Television personality, Pippa Wetzell, is the Bellyful ambassador and says the first few months with a new baby are magical, but also exhausting, bewildering and at times quite lonely. “I was incredibly fortunate when I had my three children,” she says. “I had a lot of support from family and friends who live nearby. I had meals cooked, shopping done and washing folded for me. Despite all of that, I still found it hard. I often wondered how people without that help managed. Then I heard about Bellyful - it’s simple and yet when you’re struggling with the challenges that a newborn brings into your life, something like a cooked meal and someone to talk to can make a world of difference. Getting off to a good start in the first few months of your baby’s life makes a huge difference to the wellbeing of a whole family.” 

Bellyful volunteers fundraise locally to cover the cost of the meal ingredients and packaging. The charity doesn’t receive government funding. As branches work from Bellyful recipes with specific ingredients, only certain food donations can be accepted.

“We would like to be up and running as soon as possible,” says Emily. “We need to raise approximately $3,000 to purchase things like freezers and we would like to hear from people across Mercury

“We also need volunteers, people who are happy to sacrifice a bit of time once a month or so, to help us fundraise, participate in a cookathon and   deliver the meals.

“A local business in Whitianga has already agreed to donate $500 to us for our first cookathon, a gesture we’re very thankful for.

“Our first fundraising activity will take place on Sunday afternoon, 1 December at Grace O’Malley’s in Whitianga where locals  will have the opportunity to take a photo with Santa. A digital copy of each photo costs $10, with the option to purchase Polaroids too. We’re also working on another opportunity for photos with Santa a week later after the Whitianga Santa Parade.

“Fran and I genuinely hope that we’ll get a lot of support from the community.”

If you’re interested to join Fran and Emily and become a Bellyful Whitianga branch volunteer, make a financial donation or help in any other way, please email Emily at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Pictured: Emily Pavey (left) and Fran Jack, the founders of the Bellyful Whitianga branch. Fran is holding her five-month-old daughter, Marie.


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