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Tackling food poverty

PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Wairarapa Midweek has partnered with Planalytics to launch this campaign, shedding light on food poverty in our region and highlighting the efforts of those who are working to address the need.

Hayley Gastmeier

Dozens of agencies and volunteer groups are working hard to address food need in Wairarapa.

Many people are struggling to meet their dietary needs, which can adversely impact their ability to thrive.

Inadequate food can have a serious impact on health and well-being, and a growing child’s development.

Last week – as part of Midweek and Planalytics’ Hand to Mouth series – we looked at some key factors that contribute to a person’s ability to eat and eat well. To recap, food insecurity, sometimes called food poverty, exists when people do not have adequate physical, social, or economic access to food.

Factors leading to food insecurity include access to money, with low wages and benefits not keeping step with the cost of living.

The stigma attached with having to ask for help holds some people back from getting the assistance they need.

Awareness of what assistance is available, the lack of public transport, and isolation due to age, health, or living rurally are also key barriers between kai and some members of our community.

Available data suggests that the issue of food poverty is only getting worse. But there are many groups working independently or collaboratively to help those facing hardship.

Greytown-based consultancy Planalytics has given an overview of some of these in the report, Waste Not, Want Not: Food Insecurity in Wairarapa.

Who is tackling the issue in Wairarapa?

The report identified nearly 30 initiatives addressing food need across Wairarapa, active in most of the region’s main centres.

Lucy Cooper, principal analyst and lead researcher on the Waste Not, Want Not report, explains, “while some of these initiatives will be delivered by social service agencies, the bulk of the groups addressing food insecurity rely on the generosity of the community, including local businesses, for donations of food, for volunteers, and for financial donations to help keep their doors open.”

There are three key players tackling the issue – food banks, Waiwaste, and the Community Kitchen.

Wairarapa has three food banks, located in Masterton, Carterton, and Featherston. They rely on donations from the community, but they also buy food when needed.

Masterton Foodbank, Wairarapa’s largest food bank, spent more than $30,000 on food purchases in 2017/18.

Food banks are generally open limited hours on weekdays. People needing an emergency food parcel can self-refer to a food bank up to three times, after which they need to be referred by a social services agency.

Connecting Communities Wairarapa, which commissioned the Waste Not, Want Not report, is one such agency in the region that refers individuals in need to the food bank or to Work and Income for assistance.

In 2018, Masterton Foodbank distributed nearly 4000 food parcels, feeding an estimated 12,600 people. For the same period, Carterton Foodbank provided parcels for more than 1640 people.

The Salvation Army also operates a food bank from its branch in Carterton. In 2018, it supplied 83 food parcels as well as 80 hampers at Christmas.

Collaboration and partnerships among some agencies is starting to emerge.

For example, Masterton Foodbank has, since 2017, had a memorandum of understanding with Waiwaste Food Rescue and Community Kitchen.

Waiwate, established in 2015 and incorporated as a charity last year, is a food rescue initiative that collects surplus food from around 20 suppliers including all major supermarkets in the region, cafes, bakeries, growers/primary producers, and wholesalers.

Waiwaste shares the Masterton Foodbank premises on Cricket St in Masterton and has a branch in Carterton.

As well as supplying food banks, Waiwaste provides food to the Community Kitchen, an initiative of the Wairarapa Community Centre. It has about 70 volunteers who make heat-and-eat meals for people in emergency need.

Community Kitchen doesn’t supply meals directly to people in need. Instead, meals are accessed through referral from an agency.

Lucy said, “At the time of our research, Community Kitchen had forged relationships with, and supplied ready-to-eat meals to, nearly 20 local social service agencies, including police, Women’s Refuge, and Plunket.

“And as well as providing meals, Community Kitchen has also worked with other stakeholders to deliver education initiatives aimed at improving people’s cooking and food budgeting skills.”

Another agency doing its bit is Project M, a Greytown-based initiative baking healthy muffins for schools, to be provided to children who have arrived at school with little or no lunch. Project M is volunteer run and uses ingredients donated by businesses.

According to Project M’s Facebook page, in 2019 its volunteers baked 279 dozen muffins – that’s nearly 3350 muffins – which were given to 15 Wairarapa schools and stored in their freezers to be given to children when needed.

Wairarapa Whanau Trust is a charity working to break down barriers to success for youth and encourages them to build positive bridges with the community.

The trust distributes food to more than 15 families in Featherston.

Next week: We’ll take a closer look at the Community Kitchen.

‘No co-ordinated nationwide response’

At a government level, the Ministry of Social Development provides emergency food grants through Work and Income to families and individuals on low incomes.

Food banks have long been a part of our food security landscape, and while there is no definitive count of how many are active in New Zealand, in 2019 Foodbank NZ listed on its website 185 food banks operating across the country, providing food parcels that typically sustain a household for three-to-four days.

Lucy said, “While this might look like a ‘national response’ to food insecurity, as they are available in a number of locations across the country, food banks typically operate very much at a local level in response to the unique needs profile of different communities.”

Some food banks are run by agencies with a national profile, like the Salvation Army, which has nearly 70 food bank sites across Aotearoa.

But most are established and operated by community-led organisations.

In the past couple of years, Kore Hiakai, a collective of social service agencies, including Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch city missions, has raised national awareness of the problem of food poverty and is focused on eliminating the issue in Aotearoa through finding lasting, structural, and mana enhancing solutions.

While there is no co-ordinated nationwide government response to food insecurity, there are many more charities and organisations working to fill the void, and people’s plates.

Planalytics is a Greytown-based consultancy providing research, analysis, facilitation and monitoring services to inform decision-making in the urban and community development sectors. Waste Not, Want Not was commissioned by Connecting Communities Wairarapa and funded by Department for Internal Affairs and the Lottery Grants Board Te Puna Tahua. You can access the full report from the Planalytics website, www.planalytics.co.nz

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