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Foodbanks keep providing during lockdown

Masterton Foodbank volunteer Fiona Gibson, left, with manager Jenna Matchett. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

TOM TAYLOR
[email protected]

Despite Alert Level 4 restrictions, food will always be available for those in need.

That was the message from Wairarapa’s foodbanks as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced an extension to New Zealand’s lockdown on Monday.

Masterton Foodbank manager Jenna Matchett said the first week of lockdown had been very busy, especially as many of her volunteers were older than 70 and had been advised to stay at home.

“It’s pretty short on volunteers and pretty high on workload,” Matchett said.

She said demand for food had been higher during Alert Level 4 than during Alert Level 1.

The foodbank was supplying about 40 parcels a day – double its normal level.

“When people can’t earn money for a day, it really affects their ability to support themselves.”

Masterton Foodbank clients all received staple items including cereal, bread, milk, tea, and coffee, but otherwise had flexibility in what was included in their packages.

Matchett said on the first day of lockdown, people were apprehensive about their ability to access food. However, people had become more calm once they saw that the foodbank was still up and running.

At Alert Level 1, clients were able to collect their food whenever they liked during opening hours.

However, under Alert Level 4 restrictions, clients would need to ring and book a time-slot to ensure social distancing was possible at the collection point.

“People have been scanning the QR code, sticking to their time-slots, and wearing masks, which is really good,” Matchett said.

The Ministry of Social Development would supply Masterton Foodbank with personal protective equipment [PPE] to keep its volunteers safe.

Eketahuna Foodbank operates from the Eketahuna Community Health Centre. Committee chairwoman Adrienne Dempsey said demand for food had been steady since the lockdown announcement.

“In an ideal world we continue to get our pay packets, if the employer applies for the wage subsidy. But there must be some employers out there who don’t, or some people who live pay cheque to pay cheque. They don’t have that buffer in their bank account. That’s why we see that constant need.

The Featherston Foodbank remained open, although volunteers had no direct contact with customers.

Clients could contact the foodbank by email or phone rather than showing up in person.

“We’re using a drop-off system,” co-ordinator Te Ata Rogers said. “We’ll leave it at their doors or their gates.”

Rogers said she had not seen a big increase in demand since the lockdown announcement, although there had been a few after-hours calls.

During Alert Level 4, Featherston Foodbank kept its volunteers to a minimum.

“We’ve got one person who does the running around, a manager, and myself,” Rogers said.

She said many other volunteers had wanted to help out, but the foodbank had to ensure its staff were safe and had implemented strict social distancing.

Martinborough Foodbank continued to operate as normal, with opening hours on Wednesday.

However, food was available at all times in cases of emergency.

“If anyone phones, we will respond to that need,” co-ordinator May Croft said.

Carterton Foodbank would also operate with contactless pickup of food parcels.

“We’re going to try to operate as easily as we can,” a volunteer said.

The foodbank would advise any clients who rang of a time to pick up their food parcel.

“We’re here to help, so if you’re unsure, please leave a message, and we will call you.”

If you are in need, contact:

Eketahuna Community Health Centre: [06] 375 8188

Masterton Foodbank: [06] 370 8034

Carterton Foodbank [also supplies Greytown]: [06] 379 4092

Featherston Foodbank: 022 646 3702

Martinborough Foodbank: 021 657 560

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