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Record demand for food parcels

By Emily Norman

[email protected]

More people than ever before are turning to emergency food providers in Masterton, with donations of money and food being outstripped by the increased demand.

Last month, more than 1000 people were fed through Masterton Food Bank, with 281 emergency parcels distributed.

The problem is a reflection of the “huge number” of families struggling financially, according to the Masterton mayor.

Masterton Foodbank coordinator Lyn Tankersley said they had never done so many parcels before, and had never come close to feeding more than 1000 people in a month either.

In January and February this year, 697 and 665 people were fed respectively, with less than 200 emergency parcels distributed each month.

“I don’t know why it’s taken a huge jump in March,” she said.

“But last year after it jumped in March, it didn’t come down.

“We’re just a little bit scared that the trend from last year is actually going to be the trend for this year as well. “If that’s the case, then far out, we’re going to really need heaps more support.”

Mrs Tankersley said the donations were not sufficient for the voluntary body to meet the demand.

“It leaves us with a shortage of money to buy stuff to put on the shelves – that’s our main concern at the moment.”

Donations had decreased in the last few months, “especially the donation bins in the supermarkets – they’re empty”.

Each food parcel is valued at about $40 and includes milk, cereal, bread (donated by Breadcraft), jam, margarine, sugar, tea, cans of baked beans, spaghetti, tomatoes, pasta or rice, sausages or pies, eggs, and toilet paper.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said the demand for emergency food parcels was a reflection of the “huge number of families in our community that are struggling financially”.

“The community has always been wonderful in supporting the food bank – they’re now in desperate need, so if you’re in the supermarket, buy something extra to drop into the bins there,” she said.

“There is a genuine need for a lot of our families unfortunately and they’re finding day-to-day living pretty tough.”

Mrs Tankersley said that while the organisation’s street appeal at the end of last year was its biggest yet, its success was not enough to keep up with this year’s demands.

“The street collect used to last about six months or through to June and July each year, and we do have very generous financial donations from people and we do get grants, but it’s not enough at the moment.”

Budget advisor Grant Howard of Wairarapa Free Budget Advice Service said rents had crept up this year, leaving less money for people to spend.

“Food prices are also going up. Even though it’s not going up by a lot, it is still going up.

“Of course, when the income doesn’t go up, and your rents rise, you have less money for food – people just haven’t got that extra money.”

He said it wasn’t just the poorest in the community that were being affected, but the general community as well.

He suggested that may be the reason for fewer donations.

Unlike Masterton, Carterton’s food bank demand was in decline over March, with just over 20 emergency food parcels needed, feeding 41 adults and 34 children, according to chairwoman Yvonne O’Dowd.

“Over December, we had 30 parcels feeding 54 adults and 65 children, so we’ve had a quieter month,” she said.

“We might have two or three days with no one, which is abnormal, but then we might have four or five parcels the next day. It’s very unpredictable at the moment.”

She said her concern was that there may be “people out there that find it hard to ask for help or support”.

“But we’re there to help them if they need, whether they are elderly or young families.”

 

Where to get help:

Masterton Food Bank: 06-370 8034

Carterton Food Bank: 06-379 4092

South Wairarapa Food Bank: 06-308 8028

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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