A free community meal in Papamoa is starting to build momentum as numbers enjoying the dinner continue to climb.

The initiative which started three months ago is being spearheaded by Papamoa Family Services and the Bay Christian Centre to provide an event where people can get to know each other.

Papamoa Family Services manager Janice Belgrave says the aim was to reduce isolation while providing an opportunity for people to come together.

Figures show in its first week about 12 people, mostly children, attended but that had jumped to nearly 60.

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"These are people on their own, people coming in family groups, children, youth, adults and older people. A real mixture of our community."

"Some come for the food, some come for the company.

People enjoy coming and we especially like to see all the children who come in and eat and stay on the grounds playing together."

Feedback about the meal had also been positive. "People tell us they love the food provided. We also have colouring in and board games as activities to engage young and the not so young."

"But most importantly it provides a wonderful safe way for people to come together, and this builds on and supports the awesome sense of community we have in Papamoa" The Bay Christian Centre supplied most of the food and had a team of pastoral care volunteers.

Meanwhile Bakers Delight in Bayfair donated bread and rolls as well as contributions from various businesses and individuals in the Papamoa community.

"As the weather warms we will also use produce that we grow ourselves in our gardens at Papamoa Family Services."

Initially the organisations started off providing soup, but that quickly grew into a full meal with a desert, she says.

Samples of some of the meals to date included roast meat (a choice of pork and chicken), gravy, roast vegetables, peas with rice pudding and bread and butter pudding with custard and cream.

Other menus had lasagne and salad, macaroni cheese, chicken and bacon pasta, chicken fettucine and apple pudding.

"It completely varies from one week to the next, depending on the food that is available," says Janice.

A new oven purchased with funding from Legacy Trust had also helped get the meal started.

Bay Christian Centre co pastor Nerene Falken says she has a team of 10 volunteers who help make and cook the food.

"They help us to set the tables and serve the food while some are there to meet people and talk to them.

"You can get overwhelmed but we are building relationships with these people and they trust us, and that is great. "We do get excited to see them come in."

It was also fantastic to watch residents connecting with each other, she says.

"They start talking and quickly realise they may have things in common like life or babies and children that are the same age.

"This is very encouraging work and we really enjoy.

FREE COMMUNITY MEAL
Where: Papamoa Family Services 35 Hartford Ave
When: From 4.30pm every second Thursday next meal on November 30