Blues greats Sir Michael Jones and Eroni Clarke are behind an initiative helping thousands of Aucklanders who are struggling during Covid-19 lockdown.
The Village Trust, founded by Sir Michael, has distributed over 2,700 food parcels through its foodbank since the country entered Level 4 lockdown.
Working in partnership with Foodstuffs, The Village Foodbank caters to around 40 families on a regular basis but, like most foodbanks around the country, they are now experiencing their highest levels of demand in 12 years of operation.
“It’s never been a highly publicised thing and its just word of mouth through social workers and schools we work in,” says Jones’ wife Maliena, the general manager of the trust.
“Once the word got out [after lockdown] that we could support families, it jus sky-rocketed and it went from maybe 20 parcels a day to 50 and it’s sort of just grown from there.”
The sons of the Auckland legends, Niko Jones and Caleb Clarke, spend most of their days in the foodbank’s Avondale distribution hub packing while waiting for their Super Rugby training to resume with the Blues.
“It’s part of our DNA that we serve,” said Eroni. “Because such is the need today, that it’s great as a community group, as a church family, that we can get behind our communities.”
The Trust had been in discussion with the Blues around a formal partnership and on Thursday coach Leon MacDonald, captain Patrick Tuipulotu and star recruit Beauden Barrett offered to make deliveries to families around Auckland.
Barrett’s highly-anticipated debut for the franchise was put on hold by the Covid-19 outbreak so he could not pass up the opportunity to engage with fans at a time of need.
“I can relate to a lot of the families I’ve seen today,” said Barrett who grew up on a dairy farm in Taranaki. “There are eight of us kids in our family and I saw how hard mum and dad had to work to provide and give opportunities.
“It is actually humbling to be able to deliver food and goods to families in need at this time.”
Following Thursday's trial run the Blues have agreed to commit to helping The Village Trust long-term.
“In times like this it’s pretty tough for families out there,” Tuipulotu said. “A lot of parents have lost jobs and going through hardship.
“I think we can uplift a lot of families who are struggling. It’s a long time and the hard part is just beginning.”