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Demand for food parcels hits new high

Volunteers preparing food parcels at Masterton’s FoodBank (left to right) Latna Matagi-Whanau, Ruth Galloway, Glenn McIsaac and Pam Horncy. PHOTO/FILE

Food parcel recipients living in motels and cars

HAYLEY GASTMEIER
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High rents and big heating bills are leaving some Wairarapa families struggling to fill their dinner plates.

That’s the explanation Masterton Foodbank co-ordinator Lyn Tankersley gives for the record number of food parcels dished out in the district so far this year.

Other agencies in Wairarapa are sounding a similar warning as families nationwide face financial hardships.

Ministry of Social Development statistics show an increase of more than 25,000 households asking for food hardship grants compared with the same time last year.

The Auckland City Mission last week reported it had distributed its highest number of food parcels in its 98-year history, with a 22 per cent increase on last year’s figures.

“We’re definitely experiencing the same trend and we’d be close to the same increase,” Tankersley said.

“This is the first year we’ve been giving out more than 300 parcels a month – we’ve never been that high.”

In 2015, the average number of food parcel distributions in Masterton sat around the 170 mark.

The KidsCan charity that works with children living in poverty also reported last week that a record number of food items had been sent out to schools.

Tankersley said the trend was worrying.

From January to July, 1994 food parcels were distributed in the Masterton district, up from 1710 in the same period last year.

On average, from 12 to 16 boxes were being issued in Masterton each week day, with 25 being the norm on busy days.

Tankersley said as many as 19 of her food parcel recipients reported living in motels and cars each month.

“There’s lots of families out there hurting – high rents and high power bills over the winter makes it hard for people.”

She had seen a drop in food parcels since July, which she attributed to the Government’s implementation of additional support for grandparents raising grandchildren and working for families.

Food parcels were also being distributed at a high rate by the Salvation Army, Masterton corps leader Marilyn McRae said.

“I would say that it’s not just the housing shortage, but the cost of renting has put a much bigger pressure on families than it used to – that’s certainly something that’s come through.

“We do get people from time to time looking for accommodation.”

McRae said there were more people struggling now than there used to be, and the food parcels were one way that could relieve the pressure.

While Carterton Foodbank volunteer Kevin Conroy had also observed an increase in uptake, Mary August, of the South Wairarapa Foodbank, said numbers had remained consistent over the past few years.

Masterton Foodbank will be at its new location in Radio House from September 17, with its entrance on Cricket St.

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