South Auckland food bank demand more than doubles

2:55 pm on 30 March 2020

South Auckland food bank workers have received abuse and are already suffering from burnout just one week into a month-long nation-wide lockdown, their boss says.

Auckland's Mangere on the morning of 26 March, on the first day of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

A shopping centre car park in Mangere - pictured on the first day of the nation-wide lockdown. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Mangere Budgeting Services' food bank is facing extraordinary demand, with staff fielding pleas for supplies from as far south as Hastings.

Chief executive Daryl Evans says "burnt out" staff were given a day off on Friday. The food bank resumed normal operations on Monday.

Eighty-nine food parcels were dispatched on day one of the lockdown alone, about a 250 percent lift in standard daily demand.

Workers have also put together at least 1200 pensioner packs, containing essentials like hand wash and toilet paper.

"The demand for food is growing exponentially - people have already run out because they have no money, they've run out of toilet paper and the basics," Mr Evans said.

"We did 89 food parcels [on Thursday], where normally on a daily basis we would do between 25 and 35."

The food bank was shut on Friday because staff were "burnt out", Mr Evans said.

"It's been an extremely busy week and even in the lead-up we've been gradually getting busier," he said.

"We'll be re-opening again on Monday, so this weekend we'll be going around supermarkets picking up whatever they're wanting to donate."

Mangere Budgeting Services' food bank is well stocked for now, Mr Evans said, though with supermarkets struggling to meet demand, supplies for food parcels could start to wane.

"Bread is part of a staple diet for many of our families [and] as all the bread is now selling in the supermarkets there is never any left over, so those donations have dried up," he said.

"So it is problematic - we're blessed that we have a reasonably well stocked food bank for now.

"I don't know how long that will remain with demand, but just with our social media page on Facebook I get around 60 messages a day asking do we have food."

Mr Evans recounted one particular tale of desperation, when, earlier this week, a woman living in Whanganui called to arrange a food parcel for her mentally unwell brother.

"With this particular lady we were able to offer food, but [her brother] couldn't collect and we couldn't deliver, because of course I have to protect my staff's safety and wellbeing as well," Mr Evans recalled.

"So the long and the short of it is ... that guy from Onehunga actually walked, which isn't a terribly long distance, however he still had to walk and carry the food back to his place.

"So there are those types of issues - we've also had a couple of emails from Hastings asking do we deliver down there, which of course we don't."

While most clients had been good to deal with, Mangere Budgeting Services staff reported some instances of abuse.

"We've had at least half a dozen clients who we would consider to have been extremely rude, extremely aggressive and extremely abusive," Mr Evans said

"And we put that down to the fact that they're scared - they're worried about not having enough food, they're worried about being able to put food on the table.

"We want to help people, but it has to be done in a way that is safe and appropriate for everybody concerned.

"We absolutely are making sure that every family, and that's two adults and kids, get two boxes of food. Pensioners and single people get one box of food."

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