Meating Need | The Salvation Army

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Meating Need

CM manager Craig Fluery with some large donations of meat
Posted July 27, 2023

Te Kai Mākona, The Salvation Army’s new food security and sovereignty framework, encourages creative problem solving with other food providers, individuals and organisations. Palmerston North Salvation Army are currently collaborating with local partners in the innovative work of investigating the processing of rescued meat into more accessible meal-ready forms. Where some might see obstacles, the Palmerston North team envision new opportunities to deliver collective impact for whānau experiencing food hardship.

Te Kai Mākona is The Salvation Army’s re-imagined approach to food hardship in Aotearoa. Mākona means to be fully satisfied and have everything you need physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially. Our vision is to be places of support and connection, strengthening food security and sovereignty for whānau and communities. Eligibility is no longer part of our practice, but rather the return of agency to individuals and families. It’s a mana-enhancing Kaupapa, empowering whānau and individuals to build on the strengths and capacity they already have. The team at Palmerston North Salvation Army are motivated to not only build authentic relationships with those seeking assistance, but also with community partners wanting to contribute to the kaupapa.

Plentiful protein

The Salvation Army Palmerston North’s warehouse acts as is a hub for New Zealand Food Network. Founded to provide people in need with healthy food through sharing bulk surplus and donated food from producers, growers and wholesalers around the country, New Zealand Food Network distributes product to rescue organisations, iwi and charities across the motu. The kaupapa of Te Kai Mākona shares the same underlying belief that it is our collective responsibility to ensure everyone in Aotearoa has access to healthy, nutritious food.

Palmerston North Salvation Army’s Community Ministries Manager Craig Fleury explains that during the pandemic response they were inundated with quality meat. ‘It came by the pallet load because the New Zealand Food Network was one of the channels the government were putting money through. We received plenty of meat during that period—quite a variety and mostly in family-friendly free-flow bags, so we were able to include plenty of protein in our food parcels which was amazing.’

However, post-Covid-19, that supply of meat began to abate. Keeping meat on the menu is always challenging for foodbanks as donations from larger networks ebb and flow. And while meat that is donated is gratefully received, it can sometimes arrive in forms and quantities that make storage and distribution complex.

Craig and the team recently received four pallets of frozen 13kg boxed beef bones. With the capacity to store the meat in their 20-foot shipping container freezer, some creative thinking was going to be required to transform the meat into a form that would be appropriate for food parcels, and wouldn’t cost too much.

It's who you know

Through active networking and community collaboration, Craig is comfortable leveraging relationships with like-minded people for the strategic purpose of better serving those living with food hardship. Three heads are better than one, so together with an experienced local head-chef and a regional councilor with a passion for waste minimisation, Craig began actively working on solutions to transform the beef bones into a more accessible source of protein for clients. When it comes to community collaboration that goes the distance and makes a difference, it really isn’t what you know, but who you know.

With access to a commercial kitchen, the chef experimented with ways of butchering and cooking the beef bones until he found a meal-ready form that would be the most useful. A sample of the meat output was cooked by different members of Craig’s team to ensure it could provide nourishing and tasty meals, with casseroles winning the taste test competition.

The next problem that needed solving was how to do this at scale, including flash freezing and vacuum packaging the meat for storage and distribution. A funding solution to buy the appropriate machines is being explored by another partner, but the outcome looks promising and imminent.

Craig estimates that the team can turn 750 kilos of beef bones (a full pallet) into a foodbank-friendly form for $2 a kilo. Given that foodbanks resort to purchasing meat from local suppliers when it can’t be sourced through donations and where their budget allows, this is still a cost-effective proposal.

Inspiring innovation

‘Craig and his team have arrived at a clever, collaborative, cost-effective solution for turning the bulk beef bones into smaller meal-sized vacuum-packed portions for whānau,’ says Territorial Food Security Manager Camille Astbury. ‘What a great example of the kind of innovation that Te Kai Mākona invites—inspirational!’

>> Read more about Te Kai Mākona