Our next finalist for the ANZI Top Club Service Award is the Oxford & Districts Lions Club in District 202E New Zealand. The original idea behind this service project was to deliver parcels of food to those struggling during the COVID-19 lockdowns. These parcels included essentials but also specialty items, such as new potatoes, during the Christmas season. Unfortunately, an extended COVID-19 lockdown delayed the start of the project. But the club did not lose its inspiration to harvest in time for Christmas and the project began in May 2020.
Instead of purchasing food or collecting food through donations, the club’s project manager, Lion Neville Major-Johnston, made 0.3 acres of his land available for the club to farm. The Lions planted potatoes, sweet corn and courgettes (zucchini).
In October, eight Lions and friends planted 6,000 potato seeds in under three hours.
The first planting of 1,400 potato seeds in September 2020 was done by hand under a large cover to avoid early frosts. In October, eight Lions and friends planted 6,000 seeds in under three hours. With 540 kilograms of seeds planted by hand, the question was how to distribute the crop at harvest time.
The club partnered with an organization called Satisfy Food Rescue. Typically, Satisfy redistributes surplus food from local retailers and growers. They work with charities and local communities so that food that is still useable but destined for land fill or animal feed can reach people in need, reducing food waste. Satisfy acts as a hub that distributes to 27 different trusts and groups on a weekly basis.
These trusts and groups can include delivering to families or providing a weekly community meal. The Oxford & Districts Lions Club was the first organization to supply Satisfy with fresh produce grown solely for their beneficiaries. Club leaders invited Satisfy’s team to the farmland in November 2020, and the team was amazed with the work being done. The club eventually expanded their crops to include beetroot, rhubarb, pumpkin and beans.
This was a very intensive club project, with a lot of manual labor. It included planting potatoes and pumpkins by hand, weeding the courgette plants, daily picking of the courgettes, and weekly lifting of potatoes. Approximately 600 to 700 kilograms of potatoes and 40 kilograms of courgettes were grown or harvested by 10 to 16 Lions and volunteers each week.
All produce was weighed and recorded by Satisfy, and the totals were shared with the club. To date, the club has donated more than 5,500 kilograms of potatoes and 400 kilograms of all other produce. Based on a meal size of 350 grams, Lions have fed 15,413 people. This took about 570 service hours.
Two local papers, the Northern Outlook and Oxford Observer, with a combined readership of more than 42,000, printed stories highlighting the club’s service. In March of 2021, the club received a grant from Food Secure North Canterbury to assist them in continuing the project for 2021-2022.
Due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the club had not been able to perform any service in the 2020-2021 year. For the club, the weekly gatherings needed for this project boosted morale and comradery, giving Lions the opportunity to develop their fellowship safely after being apart for so long.
The project brought them back to what they were used to doing—supporting a larger community, not with cash, but with goods and time. The club intends to make the project an ongoing one, although work will lessen in the winter months and spring will provide an opportunity to reevaluate the needs of the community and selection of crops.
We would like to recognize the Oxford & Districts Lions Club for finding a creative way to supply those in need with nutritious food. The club was able to partner with a local food charity to expand its reach and, thanks to a generous member donating his land, the club had a place to meet and perform weekly service, as well as enjoy some comradery after the COVID lockdowns. Explore our Direct Food Service Project Planner if your club is ready to feed your community!
Read last week’s blog to learn more about the other ANZI Top Club Service Award finalist. And be sure to watch for another winner next week!
Lion Carolyn Hall is a Global Action Team field specialist, primarily working with CA VII and CA III, at Lions Clubs International. She is a member of the Chicago Windy City Lions Club.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted communities around the world in different ways. To ensure we’re serving safely wherever we live, Lions should follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization or local health authorities. Visit our Serving Safely page for resources that can help you safely serve your community.