“The Water is Rising But So Are We”

February 24, 2023

A truck is packed with rescued food to support people affected by West Auckland flooding.

Close to half of the West Auckland region was still without power four days after Cyclone Gabrielle hit. Food in fridges and freezers rotted. Our partner charity, Fair Food, rallied its network of more than 40 local charities to share kai at this crucial time.

The impacts of climate change have been felt acutely across West Auckland with extreme weather all summer. Landslides in the Waitākere Ranges cut off coastal communities. Hundreds of homes were completely destroyed. The week of the cyclone, Fair Food provided the fresh ingredients for 33,671 meals. The consistent support of One Percent Collective members meant they could act quickly without needing to fundraise first.

“With grocery prices at an all-time high, most people in our community lack the funds to replace a week’s worth of damaged food. More people than ever before are reaching out for food assistance, and we want to make sure their needs are met,” shares Fair Food General Manager, Michelle.

“At its heart, Fair Food is neighbours helping each other. Our network of volunteers and community groups were checking on each other and making plans to assist before the worst of the storm had even passed. They said, ‘The water is rising, but so are we.”

“Almost everyone lost something in the flood or cyclone. We’ve supported hundreds of families recovering from leaks inside the home, flooded garages, damaged cars or downed trees. While people are quick to say that others had it worse, the disruption across our community is immense,” says Michelle.  

Photo taken by Fair Food volunteer manager who had to evacuate her neighbourhood.

Whether it’s organising a delivery by wheelbarrow to an isolated area or loaning their van when a food delivery was stalled by car trouble, Fair Food is innovating to rebuild their community after disaster.

“The experience of living on low-incomes provides a resilience that’s been an asset in this crisis. Surviving poverty is a lot like a flood. Problems flow around you like water until suddenly you’re surrounded and don’t know how to get to safety. No one should go through this alone,” encourages Michelle.

Fair Food focuses on rescued perishable foods like fruit and vegetables, meat, and dairy because it’s what most people can’t afford, and fresh food breaks down as methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The 11,785 kgs of kai shared the week after the cyclone reduced emissions by more than 32 tonnes.

“We want to be solving food insecurity rather than adding a climate problem to a food problem. We can help poverty and Papatūānuku at the same time.”

Words and images supplied by Fair Food.

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