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Rising costs put pressure on foodbank

As the cost of living continues to hit Kiwis hard, the foodbank at Te Whare Ora o Eketāhuna [Eketāhuna Health Centre] is doing its part in helping those in need in its small community.

The Eketāhuna Foodbank– which has been around “for as long as people can remember” – operates using the te whare tapa whā model based on the four cornerstones of Māori health, Eketāhuna Health Centre community coordinator Emma Elliott said.

In October 2021, a pātaka kai [storehouse or pantry] was installed at the back entrance of the health centre to help support more families and to “reduce the shame” in asking for help, Elliot said.

Elliott told the Times-Age that the Eketāhuna foodbank currently feeds an estimated 20 families per week – which encompasses anything from swapping vegetables at the pātaka kai to a food parcel following a change of circumstances or losing a loved one.

“When a full food parcel is needed, an introduction to the community garden is included, and other services to help, including financial literacy, are offered,” Elliott said.

The Eketāhuna Foodbank is a community engagement effort involving Elliott, who organises donated food and restocks stores using donated funds.

Elliott said when she isn’t around, Te Whare Ora o Eketāhuna nurses hand out pre-made boxes and add meat from the freezer; volunteers will help take delivery of ‘rescued’ food, and the local policeman will access the foodbank in an emergency.

During the Christmas period, the whole town gets involved by contributing to the annual kai drive for the foodbank – including students from Eketāhuna School helping local fire and police personnel gather donations from doorsteps, and Eketāhuna Inn collecting non-perishable items from patrons, Elliott said.

It’s not just about feeding those in need at the Eketāhuna Foodbank, Elliot said – it’s also about taking pride in all those involved to help their community beyond just food.

“In January 2014, Eketāhuna Community Garden was established adjacent to the health centre with the goal of providing fresh veg for food parcels and inspiration for the community to grow at home,” she said.

During the covid-19 lockdowns, Elliot saw the demand for food parcels in Eketāhuna increase, but she now sees the price of food and petrol as the main contributing factors to people needing food parcels.

“We are helping more employed folk for whom driving to work has become very costly. An unexpectedly expensive bill is hard to handle,” Elliot said.

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