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ALEXIA.JOHNSTON

@alliedpress.co.nz

Demand for food parcels across Wanaka has jumped significantly in the past year, putting pressure on keeping food bank shelves stocked.

Community Networks Wanaka manager Kate Murray said an average of 24 food parcels had been distributed each month so far this year.

Last year, there was an average of 16 parcels distributed per month.

Miss Murray said the cost of living had driven the need for people to ask for help, but it was difficult to pinpoint one particular cause for the spike.

“It’s an expensive place to live, so it’s probably a combination of factors.

“The biggest need for this is around affordability. So, for a variety of reasons, people find themselves in a situation where they just can’t make ends meet for a period of time.”

Wanaka’s food bank is available to anyone who requires it.

In some cases, people find they do not have enough money for food because of an unexpected bill, or a particularly expensive bill has drained their funds.

“A lot of people [who call on the service] are working. However they don’t have much fat in the fire so if they do have sudden, unexpected costs – the car breaking down, power bills – that can put them in a difficult place financially.”

Food-parcel recipients are assessed to determine whether there is another area they might also need help in.

“Sometimes they do need help from Work and Income, or a financial mentor who might do them a budget, or it might be a referral to a social worker.”

Miss Murray said the food parcel service was designed as a short-term solution, to get people back on track.

“[And] it’s about making the process as simple, easy and comfortable for them as it can be, really.”

However many found it difficult to ask for help.

“For a lot of people they feel really uncomfortable about coming in and having to ask for food.”

Miss Murray said the community had been very generous donating items to the service.

“[We have] a huge appreciation for the community for supporting the food bank, for their donations of food.”

She said more donations were welcome, particularly breakfast cereals, single-serve meals and pasta sauces.

A volunteer is also needed to help co-ordinate the food bank.

The role will consist of supermarket shopping once a week and liaising with cafe owners and managers to source any food they might want to donate.

Central Otago Budgeting Services office manager-co-ordinator Pam Hughes has noticed more people struggling to make ends meet.

The organisation saw 188 clients across the wider district from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.

Mrs Hughes did not have hard figures for the previous year, but said the 2018-19 figures were up on the previous year.

There were two part-time budget advisers who met clients and an extra person was being trained to help meet the growth in demand.

Family Works also provides support across Wanaka and Central Otago.

Director Paul Hooper said although specific client numbers could not be shared, he could confirm that over the past 12 months Family Works had supported more than 400 people and families across Central Otago.

“We have eight Family Works team members in Central Otago, including three who focus on primarily providing financial mentoring and support.”

He said the team had grown from just two part-time staff seven years ago.

“Our service continues to receive a high number of referrals – more than we can respond to immediately, meaning we need to continuously reprioritise our response.”