When life gives you lemons in Wanaka, Bex Sarginson and her army of volunteers are there to fill your belly with a freshly cooked meal. Whether it’s a health crisis, mental illness or divorce, Bex says they’ll cook for anyone in need – over Christmas, Bex and her team whipped up 130 meals.
“What we’re doing is trying to let people know that they’re not alone, that people care about their situation,” says Bex, who has been running Food For Love since just after it started in 2016. You might not think it, but she says there’s a massive need for it in Wanaka.
“We get a lot of people from the UK here who don’t have any family, and if they’re going through something, there’s often just no one around. We’re trying to form bonds and food is one of the best ways.”
She says what generally happens is she’ll get a text (usually nominating somebody else they’re concerned about), and one of her 100-strong team will put their hand up to cook.
“Some people go to amazing extents, making a three course buffet with baking. If you think about cooking for two adults and three children, that’s quite a lot of food out of their own pockets. And our New Worlds aren’t cheap!”
She reckons it’s the personal contact as much as the food that can ease someone’s struggle, which is why most of the volunteers drop off their own meals. Even the little ‘uns are getting involved, and Bex, who admits to being a crier, says watching the kids lend a hand always gets her going.
“We are so lucky in this town, there are so many people who want to help. We’ve got kids all the way down to two years old baking, and learning about giving.”
New World gives a bunch of food, and cash donations are increasing, too – the Wanaka Rodeo gifted them $5,000. Bex sees FFL getting bigger and bigger.
“The town is getting behind it so it can only get better from here on out. This is going to be a good year!”
To nominate someone, or to sign up to volunteer, head to foodforlovewanaka.com
Words Georgia Merton