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Masterton food bank prepares for Christmas rush

After a “very successful” food bank drive, the team at Masterton FoodBank are grateful for local community support in the lead up to the holiday season.

The annual event saw over 500 boxes packed, a figure similar to past year’s according to food bank manager Jenna Matchett.

“The drive was very successful, given our economic situation. We have a pretty steady demand, and it hasn’t dropped off,” Matchett said.

“I would say it’s about to increase with school holidays coming up, which put extra pressure on families with childcare costs.”

With Christmas around the corner, Matchett said there is often pressure for families to keep up with all the extra costs that accompany the holiday period.

“People try to do what society says you should do at Christmas rather than what you can afford,” Matchett said.

“You don’t want to be the family that’s not taking part, but it’s also an education about living within our means.

“People overspend, then turn up to us in January when interest rates are due on loans that were taken out to afford Christmas presents.”

The need for the food bank’s services hasn’t gone down all year, with 378 parcels handed out in the first two weeks of November.

This year has also seen an increase in the number of people collecting parcels who don’t have a registered address, with the 11 recorded in January more than doubling to 27 recorded in October.

Matchett said sustained high demand means they are focused on delivering a reliable service, but it is a constant challenge to keep up.

“We have to be reliable for our clients, they need us here.”

Conscious of how holidays impact families, Matchett said helpful donations now are kid-friendly food items and meal options that “kids can grab out of the pantry and make themselves”.

“School lunches stop, so it’s a lot of mouths that normally get fed through the schools,” Matchett said.

With the change in government resulting in uncertainty over the future of funding for food bank services, Matchett said she is always conscious of business costs.

“We have huge overheads at a place like this,” Matchett said.

“Like all other businesses we have insurance, utility bills, and ACC levies, but it’s a unique business model when you don’t make an income to pay for those things.

“The operational costs of a food bank would be the same as any other business, but we have to prioritise the food.”

None of it would be possible without the volunteers, who “have worked tirelessly to support their community,” Matchett noted.

“It’s been a big year.”

Masterton FoodBank will be closed on statutory holidays. Opening hours posted on its Facebook page.

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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