New Zealand’s well-established Fruit and Vegetables in Schools (FIS) initiative hasn’t let lockdown stop deliveries of fresh, nutritious produce to tamariki and their families in some of the Auckland region’s most vulnerable communities.
In a collaboration first established in the 2020 lockdown, FIS deliveries destined for over 44,000 tamariki in schools across Tamaki Makaurau have been redistributed to charities such as the Auckland City Mission and Fair Food NZ to be distributed to those in need.
United Fresh President, Jerry Prendergast, says the Ministry of Health funded FIS initiative, managed by United Fresh and supported by The 5+ A Day Charitable Trust, performs a key role in supporting the health and wellbeing of our tamariki whether they’re at school or at home.
“With schools closed and whānau locked down at home, we wanted to make sure that the fresh produce the children are used to receiving each day is still available for those struggling to access food during lockdown.”
“Things are really tough out there this lockdown, we know from the charities that we work with that food insecurity and inequality are causing extreme stress for families across the city,” he says.
Prendergast says the relationships that United Fresh has developed with organisations such as the City Mission have enabled them to quickly divert their weekly produce deliveries.
“United Fresh, The 5+ A Day Charitable Trust and the Ministry of Health fully support the amazing work these charities are doing and are pleased to be able to make this contribution on behalf of New Zealand’s fruit and vegetable growers.”
Veronica Shale, Executive Director at Fair Food NZ says the FIS deliveries have made a significant impact.
“The generous and speedy donation of such incredible quality surplus fresh fruit and vegetables by United Fresh could not have come at a better time. To date, they have provided us with the equivalent of 84,740 meals (about 30,000 kilos or 30 tonnes) for frontline community groups and food banks we support throughout Tāmaki Makaurau. These are nutrient-dense foods that New Zealanders need to overcome challenging circumstances and become part of our economic recovery and social resilience story,” she says.
“In ‘ordinary’ times 1 in 5 New Zealanders face food insecurity. But with Covid, access to good plentiful food is even more challenging. For a lot of our groups, what was enough food to distribute over 5 days, is now gone in a day.
“If you’re a food business and have surplus, don’t let it go to waste! We strongly encourage you to be like United Fresh, seek out your local charity and donate today,” says Shale.
FIS has supported the health and wellbeing of our tamariki since 2004 and this year will deliver over 27 million servings of fresh fruit and vegetables to schools nationwide. In the Auckland, Counties Manukau and Waitemata regions 129 schools are enrolled in the initiative with tamariki receiving one piece of fresh seasonal produce to eat with their classmates daily, providing essential nutritional goodness as well as the opportunity to try over two dozen varieties of fruit and vegetables during the school year.
The success of the FIS initiative has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) with twice weekly deliveries organised at no cost to schools. In addition to the fresh fruit and vegetable servings, the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust provides free curriculum-linked resources to help promote healthy eating and teach students how to grow their own produce.