Community unites to bolster foodbank

A Dunedin foodbank desperately in need of donations has had a temporary boost.

Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO) staff and volunteers collected thousands of canned food items in the lower Octagon for its major winter food drive, Octacan, yesterday.

Chief executive Joanne O’Neill said in an average week PSO gave away hundreds of food parcels to families in need.

Recently it had been running out of food much quicker than usual.

"We would normally expect this amazing can drive to last until Christmas time, but what we’re seeing now is that things are running out earlier and probably in October we will be looking again at how we can bolster it for Christmas."

In front of volunteers collecting canned food in Dunedin’s Octagon for this year’s Octacan appeal...
In front of volunteers collecting canned food in Dunedin’s Octagon for this year’s Octacan appeal are Presbyterian Support Otago fundraiser and event co-ordinator Olivia Willems and chief executive Joanne O’Neill. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
She said the cost-of-living crisis, static interest rates and high winter power bills were contributing to more people struggling to put meals on their tables.

Families would often cut their food budget and PSO was trying to help fill that gap, Ms O’Neill said.

"It’s about people helping people.

"It’s about us just simply being the facilitator for the community to help people in the community."

Ms O’Neill said it was encouraging to see Octacan becoming a competition between schools.

"It’s been absolutely fantastic and we’ve talked about how we can really encourage [the competition] because having a social conscience for children in schools is really important.

"This competition between the schools is an opportunity for them to push harder to help feed their community, it’s fantastic."

Taieri College and King’s High School had put in a mammoth effort to collect 2800 and 5375 cans respectively.

Ms O’Neill said members of the public could give either cans or cash any day of the year and did not have to wait until the Octacan appeal.

PSO fundraising and event co-ordinator Olivia Willems said the organisation was hoping to collect at least 20,000 cans this year and beat last year’s total of 18,000.

Cans were being placed in the shape of stars in the Octagon to represent the stars of Matariki, she said.