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Is there a place at funding table for local food banks?

Conscious of the pressures Wairarapa food banks have been under, the Ministry of Social Development [MSD] is currently considering further assistance as part of the $6 million funding boost for food banks nationwide.

At the beginning of July, the Times-Age shared concerns from local food bank workers about whether Wairarapa would see a tangible amount of that boost.

At that point, it was unclear which regions would be included, given the government announced that places facing higher cyclone impact – including Auckland, Tairawhiti and Hawke’s Bay – would be prioritised.

Simone Pringle, regional commissioner for MSD’s central region, has since clarified that, while this is still the case, there will be support available for other regions, which could include Wairarapa.

“We are making decisions about support for Wairarapa providers,” Pringle said.

“The funding will be made available to key MSD-contracted community food providers, targeted to areas with the greatest need.”

Since April, over $150,000 has been allocated by MSD to eight Wairarapa food providers.

As of July 1, none of the above providers are still contracted with MSD, but Pringle said key providers – contracted or not – will be acknowledged.

“Contracted providers are also key providers, so they are the same thing,” Pringle said.

“In terms of what we consider a ‘key provider’, we acknowledge the mahi of all those working in this area, supporting their communities, whether or not they are currently contracted.”

Previous to the pandemic, food banks were not funded, and the Government has previously signalled it would not be able to provide ongoing funding for food banks in the medium to long term.

Pringle said the current round of additional funding will provide the community sector with a longer transition period and help meet the extra demand.

“The goal is to move government investment in the community food sector away from an emergency response and toward maintaining community food distribution infrastructure, as well as supporting food security initiatives,” Pringle said.

As part of the assessment of further support, MSD will look at “culturally responsive food providers that are providing healthy food parcels”.

The Aotearoa Food Parcel Measure is used to ensure parcels provide the necessary nutritional value, and food providers with a particularly wide geographical reach
will also be considered.

Martinborough Foodbank volunteer May Croft said she will be disappointed if they don’t qualify for the next round of funding.

“I would think our food bank meets that criteria, which pleases me,” Croft said.

“There will always be people who need food, and always a need for a food bank.”

Croft said the funding support for those in Covid isolation was fantastic.

“We’re grateful for the funding we have already had,” Croft said.

“We just hope to continue to be part of the conversation. I get it’s a difficult decision to say who gets what.”

Pringle said that MSD will be in touch with providers in late August to let them know the outcome.

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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