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Hunger busters: More residents relying on foodbank

At least 180 people in the South Wairarapa wine village of Martinborough can no longer afford to buy enough food for themselves and their families, as New Zealand’s cost of living crisis continues to bite across the region.

That number represents more than 50 local families who currently depend on the local foodbank to make ends meet every week.

The Martinborough foodbank provides a range of basics – including milk, bread, vegetables and tinned goods – to those in need in and around the village. A separate foodbank in Featherston helps those in that area, with similar facilities in Carterton and Masterton.

The more than 180 residents benefited from 51 food parcels distributed in the lead-up to Easter.

The foodbank has had to rapidly ramp up from humble beginnings out of a church hall cupboard in 2019 to its current industrial-strength weekly operation.

May Croft is one of about 22 volunteers who help keep people At least 180 people in the South Wairarapa wine village of Martinborough can no longer afford to buy enough food for themselves and their families, as New Zealand’s cost of living crisis continues to bite across the region.

That number represents more than 50 local families who currently depend on the local foodbank to make ends meet every week.

The Martinborough food bank provides a range of basics – including milk, bread, vegetables and tinned goods – to those in need in and around the village. A separate food bank in Featherston helps those in that area, with similar facilities in Carterton and Masterton.

The more than 180 residents will benefit from 51 food parcels distributed in the lead-up to Easter.

The food bank has had to rapidly ramp up from humble beginnings out of a church hall cupboard in 2019 to its current industrial-strength weekly operation.

May Croft is one of about 22 volunteers who help keep people in Martinborough and the immediate surrounding area fed when they fall on hard times.

Most are family groups of three or four, but some have six or more members. Pensioners, single people, and even young families are among those who have needed help.

“We have two families with more than 10 members,” Croft said.

In January, the facility provided 160 food boxes in total – about 40 each week. The number of families asking for food support increased by 23 per cent between February 2022 and February 2023. The 51 food boxes prepared now are a record number that seems likely to be exceeded soon.

In 2019, about five families a week were receiving food assistance, but numbers have risen rapidly.

“When covid hit in 2020, there was an immediate increase, moving quickly up to close to 20 families,” she said.

“From March 2021 to March 2023, the number of families with food needs has doubled. Covid just changed everything for many people, and now we are living with the economic aftermath of that.”

Croft said the increased cost of basics like fuel and even paying rent is forcing people to cut back on buying food.

“For example, recently, some struggled to get together a bond so they could shift and then didn’t have money for food. They came and got food until they recovered their financial situation.”

Croft said illness is often a major driver of people getting into difficulty.

“If someone gets sick, they still have a mortgage to pay, and we have a number of people who are in that category,” she said.

“With long-term illness, many people have nowhere to go for help. If you live here and you have to go to Wellington, there is very little help to get in and out for appointments. So we provide the food every week.”

The foodbank currently costs about $80,000 a year to run, with the volunteers giving their time for free.

The community donates much of the food, with local retail outlets regularly contributing. Local farmers also bring food in, while village residents have even provided produce from their backyard veggie patches.

“What is so good about this community is people genuinely want to look after each other,” Croft said.

While the facility receives some central government funding, it depends on community groups and volunteers to keep going and raise the money it needs, with higher outgoings expected in future.

“Increasingly, people are living hand to mouth,” Croft said.

“They are going along fine until they have a big expense. Something unexpected happens, and it’s costly. We expect things to get worse. People who have never had to worry about prices before are very conscious of them now.”

Anyone interested in donating money, food or time can contact foodbank at [email protected] or phone 021 222 6181.

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