20 Dec 2022

Demand grows for Christchurch City Mission Christmas food boxes

6:08 pm on 20 December 2022
Christchurch City Mission food parcels.

Christchurch City Missioner Corienne Haines says foodbank demand alone had increased by 20 percent this year. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

Pavlovas, jelly and pies were among some of the free Christmas treats sweetening the festive season for struggling Cantabrians.

Demand for Christchurch City Mission's Christmas food boxes has grown rapidly, with 1800 expected to be given out this week - up by 500 on last year.

Hosting whānau from across the country for Christmas meant one woman needed a little help to get food on the table.

"This year's been a bit hard. Just getting back to normal after Covid and regularity ... I have had some general help with food from [the City Mission] before but no Christmas parcels, this is the first time [for that]," she said.

A mother with a family of seven said soaring prices had been a struggle.

"Fruit and veges is a mission. Meat too, especially to feed five kids. Food, power, a cold winter - stuff like that [was driving costs up]. And with petrol rising too, we're struggling, like everybody. It's New Zealand's crisis," she said.

  • What charities need the most for Christmas this year
  • Christchurch City Mission Christmas food parcels.

    Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

    A father of two hoped a Christmas food box would help brighten the end of a tough year.

    "I've lost my mum ... There have been a few hard times. I suffer from mental health [problems] as well and I have emphysema [a lung condition], so I can't really work. And being on a benefit doesn't pay as much as when I had an income," he said.

    "The support here really does help."

    Christchurch City Missioner Corienne Haines

    Christchurch City Missioner Corienne Photo: Supplied / Christchurch City Mission

    Christchurch City Missioner Corienne Haines said the charity was helping a wider range of people this year.

    "It's not just people who are single who would normally be our clients. It's people who do have an income, who are employed but for one reason or another, something's hit them and they've had to come and ask us for help," Haines said.

    The charity was also trying to give as much benefit to the community as possible, which meant not hosting a Christmas Day lunch for a second year in a row, she said.

    "A food box would last [multiple people] three or four days rather than the [Christmas Day] lunch, which is just one meal for one person.

    "In previous years, the number of people coming to the lunch has gone down, it's quite hard to predict how much food to get, so sometimes you've got food left over, which is quite wasteful, and there's been 500 guests and 300 volunteers at some lunches, which isn't the best use of their time."

    Christchurch City Mission Christmas food parcels.

    One of the Christmas boxes being handed out alongside staples like bread and meat. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

    The high cost of the marquee and hosting the single event was also a factor.

    Despite 2022 being a difficult year for many, Haines said people continued to be generous with cash donations and volunteering time.

    But food donations had dropped.

    "Our foodbank is actually quite bare at the moment. And in November and December we have been buying in food, we haven't had enough donated. So if we do get more ... it will be well used in January."

    The Christmas campaign was unaffected, she said, thanks to people like Ashley.

    She had been donating food to the charity for the past few years and liked to bring a mixture of staple foods and Christmas treats.

    "We had some canned fruit, some jelly, some mousse, Christmas cookies, chocolates and some crackers. Just a few bits and pieces," she said.

    Crusaders coach Scott Robertson was among the volunteers handing out food boxes at Christchurch City Mission ahead of Christmas.

    Crusaders coach Scott Robertson was among the volunteers handing out the boxes. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

    Ashley believed everyone should have a lovely Christmas.

    "We thought we would put a few extra nice things in there, because it's been a tough year and a tough time for people."

    Christmas boxes also included cakes, meat and mince pies.

    Crusaders Rugby staff, including coach Scott Robertson and academy manager Aaron Webb, were among the volunteers packing and handing out the boxes.

    Crusaders Rugby academy manager Aaron Webb, helping hand out Christmas food parcels Christchurch City Mission, says it’s nice to give back.

    Aaron Webb says it's nice to give something back. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

    Webb said staff had previously helped set up the Christmas Day marquee, but would be handing out boxes every day this week instead.

    "I think it's really nice to do a little bit to help somebody at Christmas time ... to put a little cheer on their faces. People have also been really thankful and it's good to be able to give something back," he said.

    A few people were surprised when they saw who was delivering their Christmas spread.

    "We've had some pretty good laughs already, we've just had someone tell Razor [Scott Robertson] that he's their second favourite coach and the Crusaders their second favourite team!" he said.

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