Maria Page knows how hard it can be to move with a baby to a new city and not know many people.

It's one of the reasons the mother-of-three got involved with the Tauranga branch of Bellyful, a charity that provides home-cooked meals to families with newborns or struggling with serious illness.

Page, a marketing and sales professional, and husband Hadley moved from Wellington to Pillans Point with their then 1-year-old daughter Olivia, now 6, five years ago.

Lincoln, 4, arrived next followed by Lola, 1.


"After my second child I wanted to do something but I was not ready to go back to paid employment," Page said.

She remembered how challenging it was when they moved away from their usual support network of family and friends.

"I wanted to be able to help other people in that situation.

"Lots of people don't have that family support."

She started volunteering for Bellyful about two and a half years ago and has done a variety of roles with the charity's team since, taking six months off when her third child was born.

Her duties have included looking after referrals, doing social media, and helping out at the group's massive cook-a-thons.

"Last week we made 148 meals in two and a half hours. There were eight of us. Next week we will probably do about 200," she said.

The secret, she said, to their rapid output was the separate group of volunteers who do all the preparation work - chopping vegetables, grating cheese, before the cooks arrive.

But it was not until she started doing deliveries in her neighbourhood - after recently agreeing to host the charity's new storage freezer - that she really appreciated how grateful people were for the service.

"They are so thankful. When someone turns up on your doorstep with food you can see the relief in people's faces - I don't have to make something tonight, or I can put this in the freezer for another day.

"It's a real privilege to be able to do that."

Page said demand for Bellyful meals had soared in the past year, and it had been a struggle to keep up.

"We were the busiest branch of all Bellyful branches last year."

Coming into winter, volunteers were expecting demand to pick up rapidly.

On average throughout the year they deliver 180 meals a month, but in winter that could rise to 220.

She said more volunteers would be welcomed and there were a lot of different roles people could help out with, from fundraising to deliveries.

What's on the Bellyful menu

- Beef lasagna
- Macaroni cheese
- Vegan soup