19 Aug 2021

Auckland foodbank requests double after lockdown

7:02 pm on 19 August 2021

Auckland City Mission says requests for help from its foodbank doubled on the first day of the level-4 lockdown yesterday, and it is just as busy today.

Meal packs being prepared at the Auckland City Mission.

Meal packs being prepared at the Auckland City Mission. Photo: Lui Chen

It's helping rough sleepers with food, housing and medical care and the city council's catering team has chipped in to help prepare food packs for the charity to distribute.

Auckland City Missioner Helen Robinson said her charity's foodbank had experienced a sharp increase in demand after the level four Covid-19 lockdown was announced.

"We certainly had a very busy day yesterday, so twice our normal on a Wednesday and I understand it's very busy today too. Our experience of previous lockdowns is that as the lockdown continues demand for food increases," she said.

She said three teams were also checking the streets to see if any rough sleepers need food, housing or medical help, as many are feeling bewildered and subdued about the lockdown.

Robinson said the situation was concerning as many locations of interest were in the city centre, which was where rough sleepers were largely based.

"I am worried. We know that the physical and mental health of people who live on the street is significantly compromised... If covid would reach this community, it would be devastating, so we're doing everything within our power to ensure as best we can that doesn't happen," she said.

Robinson said the city mission can provide testing, vaccination and general medical care for those in need.

"We will continue to provide services 365 days a year, even in the level 4 lockdown, and that we can only do that because of the generosity of Auckland. So we thank Auckland for their support."

Auckland City Mission general manager of social services Helen Robinson

Auckland City Missioner Helen Robinson is concerned the Delta variant may hit Auckland's inner-city homeless. Photo: RNZ / Amy Williams

Auckland Council's Catering Services team has been helping cooking and preparing meal packs each day during the lockdown for the city mission, as the charity's kitchen can't operate during level four.

Council spokesperson Rob Irvine said there's a variety of food in the pack.

"Every day we prepare around 250 meals and that really includes some really great stuff such as sandwiches and muffins, as well as some healthy options such as a bowl of salad and fruit," he said.

"Our staff love it. They feel that they can really contribute. Obviously with the level for most of our staff will be working remotely at home and so they feel this is a great opportunity for them to come in and really help support a great cause."

Meanwhile, the coordinator at charity Auckland Action Against Poverty, Brooke Pao Stanley, said some people can't get grocery, pay bills, access the internet or give kids device for online learning, and the process for getting benefits needs to be simplified.

"All the things that many New Zealanders actually take for granted are are actually a real struggle for people who are receiving benefits and and also people on low incomes - people who are working but on low incomes," she said.

"We've been calling for benefits to be increased to liveable incomes for a very long time now, and we're also asking for Work and Income to administer a high trust model - the same model that they used when administering the Covid income relief payment last year and the wage subsidy."

Robinson said several government agencies were supporting her charity, including the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.