A group of Auckland pensioners have been "stunned" to receive free lunches that could not be given to schoolchildren because of this week's Covid-19 lockdown.
About 8000 school lunches that were ready to go into schools on Monday, and another 5000 on Tuesday, have been redistributed by Vinnies Youth Auckland, a social justice youth group with branches in the city's 16 Catholic secondary schools.
Maureen Picknell, a 73-year-old resident of the Mt Roskill pensioner village in Stoddard Rd, said residents of the village's 86 units were "overwhelmed" when Vinnies volunteer Beau Takapu turned up with the unexpected lunches.
"Our age group is outside the school lunch age group," she said.
"When I saw how wonderful the school lunches are, I was stunned - what an amazing meal!"
The Vinnies lunches came from Montana Catering Auckland, one of four companies that won Ministry of Education contracts to provide free school lunches to 35,000 children in the most deprived quarter of school communities across Auckland from the start of this term on February 1.
All four companies were caught with lunches that could not be delivered to schools when the lockdown was announced on Sunday night.
One of the others, the Albany-based Virtual Cooking Company (FED), gave its lunches to needy whānau through Ngā Whare Waatea Marae in Māngere.
A second, Spotless, gave its lunches to the Auckland City Mission.
The other contractor, the social enterprise Eat My Lunch, gave 10,000 lunches to marae and other community groups recommended by the Ministry of Social Development.
Montana Catering spokesperson Whitney Joblin said: "Due to the significant lead times for the ordering, preparation, packing and logistics required to deliver 9000-plus lunches per day, numerous ingredients for the start of the week's lunches are either ordered and arriving at our facilities [in advance], partially prepared or perishable."
Vinnies Auckland manager Delphina Soti said Vinnies distributed them to families nominated by school principals, caravan and motorhome parks, women's refuges and some of its own foodbank clients, as well as to several pensioner villages.
Takapu, a fashion designer in his other life, has been visiting the Mt Roskill pensioner village every fortnight since he started volunteering for Vinnies when his own business faltered in the first lockdown last year.
A village resident, 80-year-old Neville Johns, asked Vinnies for help because he was being asked for cash by some residents who ran out of money regularly days before their fortnightly pension payments came through.
"They isolate themselves, and if it wasn't for the fact of Beau coming around and checking on them, they wouldn't have anybody going there," Johns said.
Picknell said that just seeing Takapu come into the village "gives us all a lift".
"The food parcels that he brings, well we had a couple of people, the first time he brought them, they just cried," she said.
When he turned up this week with the school lunches, it was "an unexpected big treat".
"The first day [Monday] we got beautiful sandwiches, they were cheese and chicken, and there was a little round cup cake and slices of carrot and also three or four little cherry tomatoes," she said.
"And then yesterday [Tuesday] we received wraps. They were beautifully done, they could have given it in the best restaurants really. I just thought 'wow'!
"There was beautiful fresh lettuce, grated carrots, and I thought to myself, well kids are lucky, this is amazing. I didn't realise it was so good, and I'm grateful that the kids are getting this."