Food parcel distributions extended to meet growing demand

7:36 pm on 11 December 2019

The Auckland City Mission has begun giving out this year's food parcels and presents to help thousands of struggling families have an enjoyable Christmas.

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Volunteers working at the Auckland City Mission. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

For the first time, the distribution is from four sites around the city - Eden Park, Ngā Whare Waatea Marae in Māngere, Papakura Marae and the VisionWest Community Trust in Glen Eden.

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Chris Farrelly Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

Doors are open from 8.30am until Friday this week, and Monday to Friday next week, with each site assessing and helping 200 families per day.

Chris Farrelly, the Auckland City Missioner, said some people started queuing on Monday.

Listen to this Insight documentary on the choice between food and fuel

He said the mission appreciates people's generosity, however, as the need has been growing it would like more help.

"We're still looking for donations. Our supplies of particularly non-perishable food are pretty low. Even at this late stage, donations of food and cash to the Auckland City Mission website can help us over the next two weeks," Mr Farrelly said.

"We've seen a growing need this year in terms of food poverty and food insecurity in New Zealand. We've had a 40 percent increase in demand for our emergency food parcels during this year. That gets more or less amplified during Christmas."

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Volunteers need more donations to help them meet demand over the Christmas period. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

He said for many years the parcels have been distributed at the mission's city centre site, and the decision to move it to other parts of the city was to make people feel more comfortable, as well as save travel costs for them.

"These long queues in Hobson Street stretching all night - we stopped that. There was no dignity. It was quite a humiliating thing for people to be there in the glare of the public. So we've moved them now out of the city to mainly where people live."

Waiting in the queue on a foldable chair was Louise Martin, who was wearing a thick down jacket and had a piece of blanket on her lap.

"I've been here since just after 2am and there're already 50 people or so ahead."

Ms Martin lives in west Auckland but decided to come to Eden Park because she heard people started to queue even earlier at the Glen Eden site.

Unable to work due to a broken ankle, a teenage daughter with chronic kidney disease and a son with severe autism, meant her life was a constant struggle.

She has been getting help from the City Mission for the past five years and said she appreciates what she's able to get from here.

"Definitely some peace in mind and knowing that we're going to have a lovely Christmas day and I can get some regular groceries that don't have to go into the fridge to last us through out the rest school holidays. It will lessen our weekly food bill - that's huge," she said.

Jenny-lee Hunt, 26, has taken her younger sister and a disabled younger brother under her wing after their parents died two years ago.

As a single mum with three young children herself, it's not easy to get by.

It's the first time she been to the City Mission.

"It's hard to ask for help... last year I found this on Facebook about how they're helping people with extras because since mum and dad had gone, it's hard to provide them with high rent."

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People can pick up their food parcels at four sites spread around Auckland. Photo: RNZ/ Liu Chen

Helen Jarrett, a volunteer who helps organise the Christmas presents, says it has been very busy.

She's overwhelmed by people's donations and kindness.

"It's just nice to be able to spread the Christmas cheer and just help people," she said.

"People at the end of the day, they're not going to remember the presents they got. They are not going to remember the food they eat. They are going to remember the people they meet and to be one of those people is the best Christmas gift that I can ask for."

Helen Robinson, general manager of social service at the Mission, says she appreciates the "utter generosity of Auckland".

"It's just an opportunity to say 'thank you' to Auckland. If people want to support the mission, they can do that by going to our website. We are grateful for the support Auckland can provide us."

VisionWest chief executive Lisa Woolley said her team was delighted to join forces with the Auckland City Mission for this important event.

"We know how tough Christmas can be for a lot of our west Auckland families and this event will go a long way to transforming this time from one of stress to celebrations."

Doors are open at the four sites from half past eight until Friday this week, and Monday to Friday next week.

Each place is helping about 200 families per day.

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