Barely coping with food needs

The shelves are nearly bare at Dunedin’s foodbanks, as they grapple with record demand and the cancellation of a major donation event.

The area’s four foodbanks — Presbyterian Support Otago, the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, and the Mosgiel Community Food Bank — met yesterday to discuss the intense pressure their services have come under in the past month.

It comes as they prepare for the Christmas surge without the city’s annual Christmas can appeal, which usually boosts foodbank reserves but has this year been cancelled because of Covid restrictions.

Presbyterian Support’s Julie Edmunds checks out the increasingly empty shelves at the...
Presbyterian Support’s Julie Edmunds checks out the increasingly empty shelves at the organisation’s Dunedin foodbank. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Salvation Army Dunedin community ministries manager David McKenzie said October was extremely busy, and he had not seen demand like it in the more than five years he had been in his role.

When asked what was driving the demand, his exasperation was clear.

‘‘Oh my goodness,’’ he sighed, rattling off a long list from the high cost of housing and food, to people who had lost hours at work due to Covid-19.

‘‘There doesn’t appear to be any easy fix at the moment.

‘‘All of the foodbanks are very low in stock, we’re just making it through day by day.’’

When one of the city’s food banks was running low, usually they could seek a top up from one of the others.

But they were all in the same dire situation at the moment, Presbyterian Support Otago practice manager Deb Gelling said.

Ms Gelling said the foodbank had experienced record demand during the last lockdown, and last week 33 food parcels were given out in a single day.

That was the type of demand usually seen after a really significant event, such as the South Dunedin flood.

Donations were still coming in and there had been some Government funding, but the shelves were still bare.

‘‘It is very unusual for us to be this low in stock. It’s definitely a different feel this year.’’

The stocks ran so low at the St Vincent de Paul Society foodbank this week, Dunedin centre and pastoral co-ordinator Sarah Strang had to make a plea for donations on social media.

People rallied and donated enough to keep the foodbank running for the next couple of weeks.

But the shelves had never been so bare.

Many donations were usually made when people went to church, she said. But with church gathering numbers limited, that had a flow-on effect to the amount of food given.

Work had begun on an alternative to the annual can appeal, which usually involved emergency service vehicles driving around the city collecting donations.

Organiser and senior firefighter Aimee Taylor said there were plans for collection points instead and hoped to have more details next week.

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