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Financial YE ... ... again!

Respect is at the core of Foodbank Aotearoa New Zealand.

This assertion is one that guides us, together with leadership, innovation, and integrity. It is a commitment to our kaupapa of bringing an immediate relief, recovery, and hope to the needy, the at-risk and the underserved communities we serve. And this in addition towards our endeavours to the environment through the reduction in food wastage.

So here we are at the beginning of a new financial year – our sixth, and from our experiences over the past couple, all we know for sure is that anything can happen at any time. The future is no longer a roadmap! Maybe we can call it ‘business as un-usual’ to borrow a phrase I recently read.

What we do know is that food insecurity and poverty remain hand-in-hand each requiring a huge, coordinated response and for FBANZ this means that we rely on countless partners and supporters. Through facing the realities of hunger unconditionally and with the utmost of respect for the individual, FBANZ works on the ground to rebuild lives, feed hope, and create programs and initiatives that focus on building individual sustainability and resilience, and defeat poverty over-all. Our efforts are driven by a focus on equity, community volunteerism, and an investment that starts from within the community, and adapting to their diverse and dynamic needs.

And yet our endeavours pale into insignificance when we consider the atrocities and almost unbelievable situations unfolding daily in Ukraine as well as other parts of the world. Unfortunate as it is, we, FBANZ have to remain focused on the power of our organisation - of being both reactive and proactive: spontaneous in relief and preparedness, education, neighborhood planning, women’s entrepreneurship, limiting food wastage and its resultant effect on climate change, and community health right here in our backyard. It is here after all, where we are needed.

Working in the untemplated future which is our reality, we have been forced to think creatively, to take some time to assess, identify and react to the challenges that we have had to navigate and overcome in the past two years … … how FBANZ has remained engaged, focused and positive; how our staff has managed to stay passionate despite the derision and abuse they have had to endure too often – from those they are helping; with our volunteers who continue week-after-week to provide the essential peoplepower to keep the organisation moving; and our Board, helping us keep our waka pointing true North.

We have had to face the reality of working in an environment where change happens all too fast with shifting goalposts. There always seems more to do than there are hours in a week. And yet FBANZ has managed to not merely confront the issues but move one step ahead. - an increase in the first quarter of 2022 of 30.2%.

And so, some reflective lessons to take forward:

· Identify the tasks that are strategic, that matter the most. Those we can adapt to maintain our focus on our kaupapa. It is impossible to identify and manage every possible scenario or risk that arises. Consider those with the most impact - cost, schedules, people and management.

· Focus on our well-being – our leadership, staff, and volunteers. It’s all too easy to consider others while neglecting oneself … … and yes, I know I am right in this bag, myself! However, we all do it and in so doing overlook our greatest asset – our health. We all need to monitor the emotional and decision-making demands we face in this changing environment. We do not operate in a black-and-white environment like the government thinks we do. We need to constantly be initiative-taking to protect our well-being and the well-being of those around us. Poor adherence to this leads to poor decision making and poor communication – or both.

· Identify the strategies that work – can they be developed even further? We should develop realistic response strategies. Find ways to prioritise.

· Ignore the old mistakes. We have all made them: they are past. Let us think instead of the successes; the challenges navigated, and the lessons learned. This is what makes us a different organisation. This is what provides the opportunity to recognize the changes as they arise and proactively identify emerging opportunities. This is what makes FBANZ different!

So, as we embark on this new financial year with all its unknowns, let’s think about where we individually, and as FBANZ want to be this time next year. Hopefully stronger and more resilient to surmount the obstacles that may be thrown our way – achieving our kaupapa in a more impactful and individually healthier manner! Respect for ourselves, each other, and those we serve.

Let us consciously plant those trees that will provide the shade and the protection for our communities long after our time. Kia Kaha Foodbank Aotearoa New Zealand

© John Milligan 2022

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