Warm meals are making a difference for often tired and stressed-out parents of babies in the Waikato Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Bellyful Hamilton volunteers have begun delivering stocks of frozen meals to the Waikato NICU. The Neonatal Trust has purchased a freezer, especially for the meals, so they can be stored and heated, as needed, for whānau with babies in the unit.

Bellyful already works alongside The Neonatal Trust in other major hospitals across the country, providing meals for NICU whānau.

Bellyful Hamilton Branch Coordinator Julia Carroll says getting meals to Waikato Hospital has been a work in progress for nearly a year.

“It feels great, that as a branch we can help these families, at such a stressful time. Some arrive in the early hours of the morning by helicopter with their babies and have no food till the cafe opens. It is especially hard for the dads arriving as they are not classed as patients,” she says.

“We are really excited about this opportunity to help our wider community.”

The partnership between the two charities has also come full circle, with Neonatal Trust staff member Jadey Drury, who coordinates getting the meals into the NICU, now volunteering to help cook with the Bellyful team.

The Neonatal Trust’s Operations Manager Justine Brooker says there is no Ronald McDonald House in Waikato so when families from out of town suddenly find themselves in an unfamiliar city, the meals from Bellyful will help provide some good nutrition to tired and stressed-out parents.

“A parent who has a baby under neonatal care is under enough stress as it is without worrying about where to source good food from, access to these meals means they can have a healthy meal without the effort – this is literally helping make a difficult start to life that little bit easier for neonatal families.”

Brooker says having the meals on hand now in the unit means that if they recognise someone in need of kai they can help instantly. This is huge for parents that are flown in during the night and families that need to be with their babies in uncertain times.

“A neonatal dad [recently] said last week was hard and they barely left the unit so to have a warm meal to just heat up was just what he needed so he could be close by.”

The full original article along with a videoclip of the meals arriving can be found on here on Bellyful’s website