Cooking up a storm to feed the Farmy Army

August 3, 2011 10:05 pm

When ‘Farmy Army’ members rolled up their sleeves to clean up the liquefaction in Christchurch after the June earthquake, RWNZ member Helen Heddell also launched into action to organise the catering crews to ensure no-one was working on an empty stomach.

By the end of the week she’d co-ordinated the cooking of 1200 hot dinners, been up at dawn to cook breakfast for the volunteers and arranged packed lunches for the hundreds of workers as they left for another long day shovelling silt.

Helen says ‘don’t ask how my feet are!’ but otherwise she’s very happy with the support she and caterer Nicki Geddes have had for the huge logistical exercise.

She says lessons learnt from the clean up in February helped.  “We have simplified it right down,”

For a week Helen’s day began at 7am at the Canterbury Showgrounds cooking omelettes, bacon and muffins for those who camped overnight.

20 women then turned up each day to help with whatever was required.  They began by making packed lunches for the Student Volunteers and the Farmy Army, who set out with wheelbarrows, diggers and bobcats to clean up the grey liquefaction that covered many of the city’s streets and gardens.

“Rural women have been very supportive,” says Helen, with many city folk pitching in as well. “We had 12 women from Oamaru and a group from Hawke’s Bay turned up out of the woodwork.”

The amount of baking that came in was ‘phenomenal’.  “It is amazing, we have four wheel drives turning up every half hour full of it.”  Two transport companies and one stock firm collected baking from as far afield as Southland.

Mid-afternoon, preparation for the evening meal began, with hearty food on the menu.

Helen arranged sponsorship of the meat from the meat companies and processors, as she did for the February clean up.  “They have been fantastic.  People have just been so good.”

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