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Families doing it tough

Masterton Foodbank co-ordinator Lyn Tankersley with one of the many Christmas hampers that will be distributed to families this year. PHOTO/FILE

‘The need is unbelievable’

Hayley Gastmeier

Many working-class people are struggling to feed their families, and Masterton Foodbank co-ordinator Lyn Tankersley says demand for help this December is enough to make her cry.

She said there were more people in need of a helping hand than ever before, with the foodbank dishing out 36 food parcels last Friday alone – a figure well above the yearly daily average of 15.

“There’s so many people in our community who have said they’re not having Christmas this year … I’ve never had that before – it just seems to be overwhelming this year.”

Lyn, who has been involved with the foodbank in Masterton for 20 years, said food parcel figures showed hardship was at an all-time high.

“August nearly blew us out of the water when we gave out 364 food parcels for the month and the demand has just got bigger and bigger – November we gave out 471.”

According to statistics supplied by the foodbank, that many parcels was 153 more than November 2018, and fed well over 1800 people in Masterton last month.

In 2018, the number of food parcels given to the Masterton community totalled almost 3500, feeding more than 12,500 people.

This year to November – not counting any December figures – foodbank has fed almost 14,000.

“The need is unbelievable,” Lyn said.

Each year, Masterton Foodbank spends about $70,000, which is raised through grants and public donations, on food parcels.

She said at the rate things were going, she wouldn’t be surprised if the budget hit $100,000 in 2020.

High rents and unexpected bills were key reasons families were finding it hard make ends meet.

Lyn said financial problems would be eased for many if they received the living wage.

“We have seen the people who need help creep into middle-class working families, where mum and dad are both working and coming in for food.

“It’s a very sad situation.”

However, up to 200 families will have their spirits lifted with the foodbank’s Christmas hampers, which come with all the trimmings for a festive feast, including a chicken and gravy, chips and dip, and a pavlova.

Distributed to families along with the hampers this Christmas will be gifts from Pack the Bus, a joint initiative by the Masterton, Carterton, and South Wairarapa district councils, Tranzit, More FM Wairarapa, Mitre 10 Mega Masterton, Property Brokers Wairarapa, and MediaWorks Wairarapa.

Wairarapa Shoebox Christmas, an initiative launched in Wairarapa by Sophie Cosford of Featherston, also donated presents to the foodbank. These will be given out to some families along with food parcels.

Lyn said Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Poto Williams visited in October and told her that Masterton was one of the few foodbanks in New Zealand that was agency focused.

This meant Masterton clients were getting the help they needed to improve their situation.

“We see the Auckland Foodbank with queues down the street – but what help are they getting? They probably need budgeting advice among other help.

“It’s only making them dependent on the foodbank, so we insist that after three food parcels [clients] must go through an agency and get a referral.

“It could be through a church, a teacher, an employer – just so someone else is in the loop and can help them get all the help they need.”

Lyn said the stigma around asking for help was something that had to change.

She said going hungry would be hard for many to imagine, but she encouraged others to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

“If everybody who could, bought an extra item when they were at the supermarket and put it into the foodbank bin, we would be home and hosed.”

Masterton supermarkets Pak ‘n Save, Countdown, and New World all have a foodbank donation bins.

“We’re so grateful to the supermarkets, Wai Waste, and Breadcraft for their support, and to all the incredible people who bring in fresh veggies and fruit – we live in such an amazing community.”

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