Kiwi Sporting Greats Join Global Campaign to Help Fight Hunger

Two Kiwi sports stars have come together in an international campaign that will see more than 16,000 food kits distributed to some of the country’s most vulnerable families.

Former rugby great Israel Dagg and basketball star & Tall Black Tom Abercrombie have joined a lineup of global athletes to take part in the Old El Paso Mess Free Challenge to help fight food insecurity.

Kicked off through Australia by basketball-loving tennis star Nick Kyrgios with more than 6 sporting greats from 4 countries so far having challenged each other to an instagram slam dunk while donating meal kits to local food banks. Around 14,000 Mexican meal kits are already committed by Dagg and Abercrombie to Foodbank Canterbury,and for every further share of Dagg’s’ and Abercrombie challenges on Instagram, a further donation* of 1 Mexican meal product will be made, with a total of 16, 400 total kits to be donated.

So far French forward-centre Sandrine Gruda has picked up the challenge while training for Tokyo with Spanish basketball star Marta Xarga following and France’s basketball legend Tony Parker also taking part,

New Zealand’s campaign was launched when Australian Nick Kyrgios following his grass court mixed doubles pairing with Venus Williams in London, challenged the basketball community to get involved. Tall Black and basketballer Tom Abercrombie decided to bring the challenge to New Zealand.

Abercrombie was tasked with replicating Kyrgios slam dunk with a basketball in one hand and a full tortilla pocket in the other.

Abercrombie, a dad of three, said he can’t imagine the pain of struggling to put food on the table for his family and hopes this campaign will go some way to make life easier for those suffering from food insecurity and hunger.

“I’m honoured to be part of a global campaign which is not just shining the spotlight on food inequity but instead taking an active role in trying to address it in a unique way by uniting sports players and fans alike.”

“This campaign really gives New Zealanders the chance to take an active role in meeting the needs of our more vulnerable families. It's a simple, fun and engaging promotion which means it should be easy for us all ages to get behind,” said Abercrombie.

When it came to nominating someone of his own Abercrombie said instead of the basketball court, he’s gone a bit left field and challenged rugby star Israel Dagg.

“I know he’s great with a rugby ball, but I wanted to see what he could do with a basketball. It can’t be a real challenge if it's too easy!”

Christchurch based Dagg said he’s happy to take part in the initiative which will see some of the country’s most vulnerable families receive the support they need.

“I had a really humble beginning and so I know what a struggle it can be for families to just be able to put food on the table. As we get into winter, money needs to be spent on warm clothes, heating and power bills, sometimes that means there’s less food in the house.

“I am excited to take part in the Mess Free Challenge which goes beyond just highlighting the need in our community but gives Kiwis the chance to do something about it, with every share resulting in more food kits donated,” said Dagg.

Dr John Milligan, CEO of Foodbank Canterbury, said the charity assists with the provision of almost 10,000 meals daily for those at risk and in need.

The service aids more than 120 charities in Christchurch and Timaru and via its Mobile Food Hub.

“In addition, we operate a Hunger Action Teams (HATs) programme, where volunteer teams pack family care packages each week. These packs contain the staple foods, care products, recipes sheets plus a few ‘extras’ and we are excited to be including the Old El Paso kits.”

“The packs are handed out unconditionally from five local distribution centres, we also supply the HATs packs through our Plunket outlets. This programme was launched as an innovative solution during the pandemic to plug in a hole in need fulfilment."

Dr Milligan said there is still significant need and believes the programme could grow “fourfold”.

General Mills NZ country manager Keezia Haste, said the campaign was designed to raise awareness of the millions of people worldwide who have no secure supply of food, at the same time giving those more fortunate the chance to bring their creativity to life in support of an important cause.

“We are excited to partner with two of New Zealand’s top sports stars to help us bring the Slam Dunk challenge to life and encourage Kiwis to get involved and do their bit on a local level to help combat food insecurity," said Haste.