Helping Halo feed our neighbours
Every morning, Halo Trust sets out in a small refrigerated van to distribute food to hungry people across Tokoroa. Marina Pullen and her team of volunteers take kai donated by Countdown, and give it to children, the elderly, and families. Trinity Lands is proud to support Marina’s relentless drive to make a difference in our community.
At 9.15am on a wet Wednesday, the gates at the back of Countdown Tokoroa are unlocked and the Halo Trust van reverses up to the loading bay.
Marina Pullen started the Halo Trust with her own car, her own money, and a world of determination. Now she has a $34,000 refrigerated van, donated by Trinity Lands.
As drizzle falls, Marina’s team works swiftly to pack around 65kg of rescued food in to the cold back of the van, ready for distribution across Tokoroa.
Countdown has ambitious goals towards zero food waste to landfill so it supports many food rescue charities around the country. To ensure rescued food is safe and suitable for consumption, there are strict parameters to protect the end consumer. For example, Countdown will not donate any food which is past its use-by date, but it will donate some foods with a longer shelf-life, such as chips or bread, which are past their best-before date.
Marina says charity recipients know the items she delivers will not have a long shelf-life. Much of the food is eaten the day it’s delivered, but sometimes recipients will freeze items such as bread and defrost it bun by bun, slice by slice to stretch it out over the week.
Previously, these items were fed to livestock or sent to landfill; now they feed families. Marina says the Countdown supermarkets in her area have been enthusiastic in their support of her food rescue mission.
Today Marina is training up volunteers Paula and Bucky. Most days the food goes to organisations; other days it goes to homes – targeting single elderly people who cannot drive, and hungry multiple-children families.
One day, Marina visited a family that she knew was struggling, and asked if they needed any food. The mother explained it was her son’s 7th birthday and she had nothing to feed him. On that day, Marina’s haul from Countdown included chips, donuts, jellies, cupcakes and other party food; small treats that made a birthday boy feel special and celebrated.
First stop today is the Tokoroa Senior Citizens Club. Manager Lyn Campbell says since 1980, the centre has been putting on a meal twice a week so its 62 members, aged 50-plus, have the opportunity to eat an affordable, freshly-cooked meal with their friends.
“It’s about companionship,” Lyn says. The canned goods, pizza bases, and baked treats she receives from Halo help stretch the meal further, so she can ensure a filling spread without raising the cover charge from $7 a head.
Lyn sorts through the day’s delivery. She sets aside scones for morning tea for a group that are gathering around a table to do crafts. She puts some bread in the freezer to make bread & butter pudding at the next community meal. And she reminds each person who comes through the door to take a packet of rolls or loaf of bread home.
Next stop is South Waikato Adult Education, an organisation which teaches and supports young people who have been excluded from mainstream education.
The programme manager is Moana “Monz” Tiaki. The donated food allows the staff and young people to break bread together, building companionship and forging bonds, and it also supplements what the students are eating outside of class time.
“For us, these are some of the most vulnerable kids in the district. If they have got a full belly, they can learn.”
Last stop this morning is Arohanui Kindergarten, where head teacher Beverly Hall comes bounding up the path to welcome the van, followed closely by a parade of pre-schoolers towing trolleys.
The children transfer bags of bread rolls from Marina’s trays in to their trolleys, then steer their haul inside to the kitchen.
Beverly says the 40 children on her role are very well-fed.
But the kindy is proud to be able to offer milk and bread to families, knowing it reduces waste going to landfill. It’s also a gesture of kaitiakitanga; a way of caring for families that are part of the kindy whanau.
At every stop, Marina is enveloped in hugs. She earns so much less than she did when working in insurance in Wellington, but she’s happy.
“This town needs food.”
With financial top-ups from her parents, and inspired by the work of Kaivolution food rescue in Hamilton, Marina set up the trust in Taupo in 2017.
Marina relocated from Taupo to Tokoroa last year, to concentrate on establishing Halo in the South Waikato town and neighbouring Putaruru. She also has Halo food rescue operations in Levin and Waikanae, and she is planning to reach more communities and expand her offering. She dreams of being able to give families pyjamas, books, toiletries.
Marina says the refrigerated van has expanded her capacity and reach.
“I’m just so grateful to Trinity Lands. The van makes me smile! It has flowers and the Halo blue and it has helped us take this work to a whole new level.”