22 May 2020

Demand for food parcels levels off, but could return, Sallies says

7:07 am on 22 May 2020

A second wave of Covid-19 hardship could be on the way, the Salvation Army has warned.

File photo. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

In its latest report, it said demand for food parcels and other emergency assistance has levelled off, but it could ramp up again as unemployment grows.

Last week, it handed out just over 3000 food parcels - half the number distributed when demand peaked during the lockdown.

But it was still more than double what was being handed out before the country went into alert level 4.

The report said the winter energy payment, which started being paid this month, was helping.

"But there is an underlying concern that this may be a hiatus before the next wave of need sets in as higher energy bills arrive, as well as the end of most of the wage subsidy in June," it said.

While the Salvation Army welcomed the $32 million budget boost to help foodbanks keep up with the increased need as a result of Covid-19, and the $212m expansion of the school lunch programme, they weren't long-term solutions to the problem of food insecurity.

"It does not address the already existing need before the crisis began, nor does it fully cover the scale of sustained support that will most likely be needed over the coming weeks and months," the report said.

"Both these initiatives will help provide better food for students who need it, and are a direct response to the presenting need of hunger at school and lack of food in homes.

"But we believe they are not the transformational policies that will lead to long-term change for those families, whānau and households facing food insecurity."

The Salvation Army noted that the increase in people going on to the benefit had slowed, but Treasury forecasts in the budget said unemployment could hit almost 10 percent by September.

"Current welfare settings will drive those losing their jobs over the coming months into poverty, and for many this will last years rather than months," the report said.

"The social impact of this will be devastating and will be magnified by existing inequalities. There is no doubt a portion of our society will be largely untouched by the recession and others only lightly impacted, but those hardest hit are people who are already doing it tough."

The Salvation Army said it would continue working with the government to come up with long-term solutions.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs