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Demand drives move to larger space

South Wairarapa Foodbank’s new premises will provide “space, light and possibility” at a time when the heightened need for food support remains strong across the region.

The foodbank moved to Princess St this week, with staff and community supporters getting together to celebrate the shift on Tuesday evening.

Foodbank volunteer and spokesperson May Croft said while the tremendous community involved in making the move has been encouraging, the process has been bittersweet given the wider context that’s made it necessary.

“You feel really good about it but there’s a part of it that’s desperate because that’s where people are at.”

Croft said there are plans to establish a shop selling household goods and second-hand furniture, and provide resources for people needing legal help or wanting to pursue education.

“We see a future in having a food bank and doing advocacy and helping with other issues people have, so we want to build that side of it,” Croft said.

“All communities want people to thrive, but in a small community you can do it because you know all the people and people know you.”

Croft said the foodbank will ideally eventually have its own income stream so it’s less reliant on public generosity.

Though not normally government-supported, funding from the Ministry of Social Development [MSD] between January and July this year put $3000 towards Carterton Foodbank, $20,000 to Martinborough Waiwaste and Foodbox, and $35,000 to Masterton Foodbank.

MSD also gave over $100,000 to other Wairarapa food providers in the same time period, and is currently considering which providers will be eligible for a further round of funding.

At the Masterton Foodbank, manager Jenna Matchett was stoked with a recent district-wide collection between 29 schools and early childhood centres.

Matchett gestured at the shelves to her left, stacked to the ceiling with supplies, and noted that last week, the same shelves were empty.

“It’s amazing – when you add everything up together, it’s a huge amount.”

Although what’s been donated has made a tangible difference to the foodbank’s stock, Matchett said she and the volunteers remain rushed off their feet to meet a continual increase in need.

Matchett said it is a constant concern that the rate of need is staying at a significant level.

“It ramped up at the start of the pandemic, but it’s just become the new normal.

“When do we reach saturation for generosity?”

The Reserve Bank announced yesterday that the Official Cash Rate would stay at 5.5 per cent.

Matchett said this will mean all of those struggling to keep up with high mortgages and interest rates will continue to feel the pinch.

“We’re struggling to keep the community’s head above the water, and this means continued pressure for a widened demographic.”

The Times-Age has previously reported on the increased number of middle-income earners relying on food support, and Matchett said they are still observing this pattern.

“It just pauses development for us,” Matchett said.

“We can’t forecast any improvement, and we stay on this treadmill because people’s individual situations stay the same.”

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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