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Soaring costs put a strain on foodbanks

Wairarapa’s foodbanks are seeing record demand as inflation drives food, rent, and fuel prices ever higher.
Contrary to expectations, the Reserve Bank confirmed a near-record inflation rise with a 7.2 per cent increase in the year to September.
At the supermarket, the increase in fresh produce was hitting customer pockets the hardest.
In a recent announcement, Stats New Zealand revealed food prices had risen a whopping 8.3 per cent over the same period – the highest annual increase since July 2009.
It said food and vegetable prices were driving rising costs, and singled out broccoli, tomatoes, and capsicum as the main culprits.
In a sweep of the region’s supermarkets, South Wairarapa was shown to be the most expensive for basic items and produce, recording the highest prices for all common items surveyed.
Featherston Foodbank volunteer Elaine Corlette said it had been another record year, with demand doubling from 2021.
She said the foodbank had delivered 929 parcels this year, compared to last year’s 465.

“Last year we had a record year, but by May this year, we had already reached the same number of parcels as the entire of 2021.
“The demand has almost plateaued. “We keep waiting for it to go down but it’s been consistently high.”
Corlette said some of the biggest price increases were seen in jelly, jam, peanut butter, and other essential items such as dishwashing liquid, toilet paper, and toothpaste.
She said few people were immune to the increasing rent and fuel prices that were driving demand, and had heard stories of people selling their houses to afford living costs or an unexpected bill.
“There’s a lot of scepticism about the kind of people who come to a foodbank.
“But it’s not just one kind of person who comes here.
“We’ve had more older people this year than in previous years.”
Despite Masterton supermarkets recording the lowest prices for everyday items, Masterton Foodbank manager Jenna Matchett said the foodbank had seen a 95 per cent increase since covid-19.
She said, however, food costs were just one part of the issue.
“Everything is expensive right now. A lot of people had turned up because of fuel prices.
“When I was younger, you rarely looked at the price of things, but now everyone is looking.”
“Covid created a monster, but it’s carried on. It has gone up so sharply, you’d expect it to go down again, but it hasn’t.”
She said the supermarkets donated generously to the foodbank, but even cheaper items were now out of reach.
“Out of all food costs, vegetables have gone up the most.
“How can anyone afford to eat healthily?
“We’re a country which produces this stuff. It’s infuriating.”
Matchett was concerned for families during school holidays, with the school lunch charity KidsCan recently recording the highest increase in demand in 17 years, with about10,000 more children needing food.
“Wairarapa Schools provide food for the children, but when school holidays hit, what will they do then? It’s not like the family will get extra money over that period.”
Prices from the supermarkets’ websites as at 5pm Friday.

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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