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Cost of living pressures dial up demand for food parcels

Publish Date
Tue, 17 Jan 2023, 9:21am
Photo / File
Photo / File

Cost of living pressures dial up demand for food parcels

Publish Date
Tue, 17 Jan 2023, 9:21am


City missions across the country say people who have jobs but can’t afford their ongoing costs are increasingly turning up for help.

Food banks around the country have had a flood of demand in the first few weeks of this year as the cost of living shows no signs of easing.

More than 50 people visited Wellington City Mission’s social supermarket to choose free groceries when it reopened just over a week ago - five times more than the usual number.

The city mission’s general manager of community services, Olivia Lange, said many customers were new to foodbank services.

“Some of the comments were from people saying they hadn’t eaten all week, that they’d been waiting for [foodbanks] to open and many of the people that were being interviewed were first time coming and accessing services, which was surprising for us.”

She said the cost of living was unmanageable for an increasing number of people.

“Things are really tight for people, they’ve got high rents, food is expensive ... there’s a real uncertainty for people at the moment about how things are going to go for them.”

It’s a similar story in Christchurch, where city missioner Corinne Haines said they were giving out up to 110 food parcels a day, up from 70 in the last few months of 2022.

“They can’t believe that they’re coming to a foodbank. They can’t believe that they’ve found themselves unable to cope this year so there are people coming who have not come to us in the past.”

Haines was preparing for a 30 per cent increase in demand for the foodbank this year.

“We’ll be bracing ourselves for that and hopefully we can access supply at that level because we are buying in food every month at the moment to service the needs of our clients.”

She said the organisation was managing the increased demand but needed ongoing donations of food and money.

In Auckland, the city mission had consistently provided 2000 food parcels a week for months.

Its general manager of health and social services Jacqui Dillon expected demand to increase as the year wore on, and a shift towards people who were holding down jobs but could not cover bills.

“We’re now seeing a lot more females, a lot more individuals who are coming to see us because by the time they’ve paid their rent or their mortgage or bills there’s simply not enough left to cover the cost of food,” she said.

“For most of the people that we are seeing, by the time you’re reaching out to one of the city missions or one of the service providers, if you are lucky enough to have any money set aside for a rainy day it’s gone through the Covid period and now what we’re seeing is people simply do not have enough to get through.”

Budgeting services are also experiencing high demand.

Auckland Central Budgeting general manager Tim Maurice said the phones were running hot with more calls a day than they typically get in a week.

“It’s been crazy busy. Heaps of referrals coming through the Money Talks phone number, heaps of people with KiwiSaver hardship applications, we’re very busy.”

He said they were hearing from people in crisis who had got into debt to pay for rent, food and other necessities.

“The trouble we see is people who are in crisis and that’s usually when their debts have got so large they’re unable to repay them and it is just borrowing for cost-of-living things.

“They’re unable to save because it is just so expensive, so any bump in the road, they borrow for it.”

Consumer NZ research shows less than half of those surveyed for its sentiment tracker in November were able to save more than 5 per cent of their income.

The organisation’s head of communications and campaigns, Gemma Rasmussen, said that created anxiety in a year tipped for a recession.

“A lot of people are feeling anxious about the amount they are able to set aside.”

The city missions said they would work hard to meet rising demand at their food banks but they needed those who could to keep donating food and money.

- Amy Williams, RNZ

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