One in five New Zealanders risk going hungry over the Christmas period, according to the new charity New Zealand Food Network. Jo Noema is the co-founder and manager of Generation Ignite in New Lynn, who have seen a 146 percent increase in demand for food parcels since Covid-19 hit.
Jesse speaks to Jo about how the organisation is preparing for Christmas and what help they need.
She explains that much of the food they receive are from the New Zealand Food Network and much of it is “rescued” from supermarkets before being distributed to families by Generation Ignite.
Her and her husband began the charity in 2014. For her husband, his own personal experience of poverty and domestic violence was a big impetus to help families in need.
“We got to a point within our marriage and our family situation where we wanted to give back. We wanted to reach out and help some of the other young people who have been through some of the situations that Dan [her husband] had faced growing up.”
She says that as they began to reach out to families, they saw that food security was a big issue.
“We began with buying food and sourcing food from other food banks to try and meet some of this need and we got to the point where we thought, let’s try and create something that’s going to be as accessible as it needs to be and help reach all the people we were coming into contact with.”
Noema says that a lot of families they see come through this year are accessing food banks for the first time. She says demand is so high due to Covid-19 that they’ve had to cease a youth development project they ran and focus exclusively on the food relief.
“There is a lot of stigma and shame around having to reach out and ask for help, but we have seen that there is massive relief as we are able to provide that food for families.
“There have been a lot of people who have been made redundant and are out of work. Quite a few people in the tourism industry and hospitality have come through.
She says that in February they were doing two community meals and gave out 180 parcels that went to 551 people. In the first six weeks of lockdown they gave out 686 parcels that went out to more than 3320 people.
“The need that we saw skyrocketed immediately after covid hit.”
Because a lot of hospitality and catering business that normally donated food also had to close due to lockdowns, the supply side of Generation Ignite dropped meaning the group had to often go out and buy food to make the parcels substantial enough.
The group has a Christmas event coming up where they’re hosting 165 families.
“We’re doing Christmas presents for all of the kids, Christmas supper, carols all of it.”