20 Aug 2021

Covid-19 lockdown: Pressure builds to provide needy with enough food

8:31 pm on 20 August 2021

Community service providers across the motu are trying to manage and plan for a spike in demand during lockdown.

Open food parcel

File pic Photo: RNZ Insight / Sarah Robson

They are distributing food parcels, lunches and advice to those in need, while preparing to cope with the level four extension.

In Te-Whanganui-a-Tara, the capital, today's discovery of Covid-19 in the city did not stop Compassion Soup Kitchen from helping out those who needed it.

Its manager Gary Sutton said there had been a big rise in demand during level 4.

"On a normal day, that's about 100 to 120 meals. During alert level 4 lockdowns, we go up to 180 to 200 meals a day because other institutions need the hot meals because they're not able to provide them themselves or they can't pick them up from their normal providers."

They were giving away takeaway lunches to passersby over the lockdown.

"We try and give as much warmth and encouragement in the short, very brief interaction we have with each guest, 'cause we realise it's a bit tough. They're isolated at the best of times and it's a bit more isolated during a time like this."

In Ahuriri Napier, the iwi authority responsible for looking after hapū and marae, Te Taiwhenua o Te Whanganui ā Orotu, was helping out anyone who needed it by connecting them with services.

Chief executive Taina Eden said they were able to do it immediately.

"Nationally Māori, because of our connections and on-the-ground networks, we can stand up straight away, we can stand up food hubs straight away, we mobilise, we can get together, we can just do it."

She said koroua and kuia had been calling about medical and transport concerns.

"We've had actually quite a few inquiries in relation to food parcels too, because unfortunately children eat through a lot of food when they stay at home so there are some families struggling and needing our help at this stage."

They may set up a food hub now that the lockdown has been extended.

Down south in Ōtepoti Dunedin, the night shelter had to close for a while when restrictions hit.

It has 12 beds and those who frequently use it have been housed in the likes of backpackers.

Chairperson Clare Curran said they helped the community by making sure food did not go to waste.

"The night shelter relies utterly on the generosity of the community. We have donations of food and bedding and clothing etc coming in and wanted to make sure that we didn't leave food in the shelter that could be used by the communities."

So they raced it out to those in need hours before lockdown began.

"Any food that was left over before the lockdown was made available through our food pantries in the community which are open to the public and [we were] hoping that the public, the people that don't have enough, things like eggs and vegetables that sort of thing, so they can make use of those food items."

Curran said the shelter was sorting out its plan for the lockdown extension, considering if it would reopen.