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MORE than $2.2 million of Winz emergency grants for food and electricity were made in Otago, Southland and Timaru in the year ending September 2013.
Winz southern regional commissioner John Allen said he encouraged those struggling to make ends meet to contact Winz for financial support.
Work and Income could provide one-off payments to those in financial hardship to pay for essentials, including food and electricity.
The grants for food did not need to be repaid but electricity grants did.
Non-beneficiaries could apply for a food grant that did not need to be repaid.
Presbyterian Support Otago Family Works director Paul Hooper said people who had never been to a food bank before had been asking for support for the first time in the past year.
''We call them the new poor.''
These people had recently lost jobs or had fewer hours of work, found it hard to accept support from a food bank and lacked the ''resources and resilience'' to find support ''in times of strife'', Mr Hooper said.
''They need support to budget and make ends meet.''
Family Works ensured clients had checked if they were eligible for a Winz grant.
The demand for food from Family Works was high and there were fewer suppliers, Mr Hooper said.
''Organisations that used to supply food are no longer in existence,'' Mr Hooper said.
However, a new organisation called FoodShare collected excess fresh and frozen food from donor businesses, such as markets, cafes and bakeries, and distributed it to social service agencies.
''We are getting a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables where there's oversupply, or its short-dated. They [FoodShare] have been fantastic. In fact, I don't know how we would have done it without them.''