Agencies work together to address food hardship

A nationwide increase in people seeking food support has southern agencies working together to help those affected by the latest Covid-19 lockdown.

Ministry of Social Development statistics show need in Southland followed the trend from July to August, but people requiring a special needs grant for food was lowest in the country with an 18% increase.

In Otago, there was a 35.5% increase, just under the national average of 37.5%.

Client service delivery group general manager Kay Read said while the increase in demand for food support was in line with the national trend, it encouraging to see that Southland’s increase was below the average.

A special needs grant is a one-off payment to help with an essential or emergency cost if someone cannot pay it another way.

"Food is one of the essential costs we help people with when they are experiencing hardship," Ms Read said.

"Accommodation costs, power bills and medical costs are other examples."

The ministry worked with social service providers during the recent lockdown to assist whanau and communities.

"We will continue to help people access food where there are issues around affordability, through food grants and support to foodbanks and food suppliers."

Southland Foodbank trustee Peter Swain said its deliveries were up between 25% to 30% since the alert level was at it highest, but this was dropping as more people returned to work.

"This is a lot of food ... between six and 10 [households] a day."

Those in need were given a week’s supply of food, averaging a value of about $150.

"Throughout the week you’re trying to break the back of it for them."

He said children being off school added to the stress of having to feed family members during the day.

"Of course our colleagues up north, well, they’re just getting hammered."

All the foodbank’s clients were referred to it by other agencies.

There was good collaboration among southern agencies to make sure people were being helped, he said.

The foodbank was one of two Southland groups to receive an emergency funding boost from the Foodstuffs (South Island) Community Trust.

In response to the pressure put on southern foodbanks, the trust pledged $100,000 of immediate product and financial support to its foodbank partners across the South Island, the Southland Foodbank and The Pantry in Invercargill each receiving a share.

Grants are given in the form of supermarket gift vouchers and the charitable organisations will distribute them to people in need throughout the rest of this year.

Trust chairman Justin Smith said one of its promises was to ensure South Islanders had access to healthy food.

"We were hearing from our foodbank partners this latest Delta outbreak was making it even harder than ever to meet the community demand, so we took immediate action to help."

The Pantry supports South Alive community projects.

Programme co-ordinator Robyn Hickman said people in the community were doing it tough, and additional funding allowed it to offer support in Invercargill.

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