22 May 2023

Northland foodbank forced to scale back services due to high demand

5:34 pm on 22 May 2023
Food parcels at  BBM HQ in Manukau.

The cost of living crisis has led to foodbanks receiving less donations. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Foodbanks across the North Island are finding their pantries empty amid a shortage in donations.

An industry reliant on donations, foodbanks' supply woes have only worsened as the cost of living crisis continues.

As New Zealanders grapple with the cost of living crisis, some who rely on foodbanks are being turned away, as charities struggle to meet demand.

Across the North Island, many are finding people do not have the same capacity to donate as they once did.

The Aotearoa Food Parcel Measure indicates that the nationwide number of food parcels distributed in March was 3422 fewer than at the start of the year.

The Tauranga Community Foodbank said it had seen fewer donations in recent months.

Manager Nicki Goodwin said they were struggling to keep up with rising costs.

"We're having to really tighten the budget and be really careful with our purchasing, we're mindful that we're in a position of reasonable stability for a charitable organisation," she said.

"We've been here for 32 years, and we intend to be available for the community for the next 32."

People who had not used the foodbank in years were needing support once again, Goodwin said.

"We're seeing a lot of people come back to us for support that we may not have seen for 10 to 20 years, so they've needed help at some point, managed to be self-sustainable for all that time, and now [are] needing support again."

She thought a more focused approach to providing support would help the situation.

"We need to look at different housing models, we need to look at some extra support for middle New Zealand until the housing situation is improved, which is going to take decades," Goodwin said.

"I think there needs to be a solid plan in place, moving ahead, rather than just a reactive, here's an extra $10 a week."

David Letele at Buttabean Motivation's food bank in Wiri.

Dave Letele of Buttabean Motivation Foodbank in South Auckland said for many foodbanks it was a day-to-day hustle and grind to keep things going. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

In Northland, Kaitaia's Fresh Start Family Services and foodbank said residents were struggling.

Manager Sophie Smith-Cressy said they had had to reduce their operation as a consequence of ever-increasing demand.

The service had gone from seven days to three. Higher costs had made everyday essentials difficult to access across the board, Smith-Cressy said.

"We live in the Far North, a lot of people travel to work, the cost of petrol is high, the cost of food is high, and the interest and mortgage rates have gone up, so people are really struggling."

In South Auckland, Dave Letele of Buttabean Motivation said they were in a more fortunate position than most.

"We're in a lucky position where we have a very good profile where we're able to do that but for others who don't have that, it's just a day to day hustle and grind to keep it going," he said.

Kore Hiakai, a zero hunger collective operated by the Salvation Army and City Mission, said over 8000 people where given food assistance during March of 2023.

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