The record no one wants to break
23rd March 2016
The record no one wants to break: Auckland City Mission on track to distribute highest-ever number of food parcels in 2016
The number of people coming to the Auckland City Mission for emergency food support is on the rise.
In the past eight months, the organisation – which provides food parcels to individuals and families in crises – has distributed as many food parcels as it did in the entire 12 months prior.
Acting chief executive, Jacki Richardson, says the trend does not appear to be slowing down.
“We experienced a record-breaking level of need over the 2015 Christmas period, which is traditionally our busiest time of year,” she says. “However, levels don’t appear to be slowing down. Most of the Mission’s food parcels are distributed to families, many with young children, so this is a concern.”
Ms Richardson also notes that a large percentage of those coming to the Mission for support are doing so for the first – and only – time.
“There can sometimes be a perception that people become dependent on food parcels, however the majority of those who come to the Mission – around 65% – only ever do so once or twice in their lives,” she says.
“Food parcels are something that families turn to when they’re in crisis; when a job has been lost, someone becomes ill, or relationships fall apart and a family has no one else to turn to.”
The trend isn’t a statistical anomaly either – the number of people coming to the Mission for food support has steadily increased over the last ten years.
In the year to June, 2006, the organisation distributed 4,000 food parcels. Last financial year, the Mission distributed 10,934 – and in the past eight months alone (July, 2015 to February, 2016), they’ve provided 10,627, putting them on track to break their previous 2014 high of 11,349.
This trend is mirrored in Child Poverty Monitor figures released in December, which show that in 2007, 22% of New Zealand children were living in poverty. That number has since jumped to 29%.
The Mission’s own Family 100 research project, showed that lack of food, or “food insecurity,” has broad implications for parents and their children.
“Often, when a family is in desperate need, food is viewed as a discretionary item. It becomes something to be purchased when all other necessary payments, such as rent and debt repayments, have been made,” says Ms Richardson.
“Food insecurity affects family life in a significant way. Lack of food can mean children aren’t sent to school, therefore compromising their education. Inexpensive food is also often not as healthy as pricier alternatives – a single capsicum, for instance, can cost as much as a scoop of chips. Not having enough money for food therefore has negative implications for the physical, as well as emotional, health of low-income families.”
In order to address the issue head-on, the Mission closed its Otahuhu-based food bank in 2014 and now partners with community organisations based in parts of Auckland with the highest levels of need. The Mission provides these organisations with staffing support, assessment criteria and Mission food parcels.
Ms Richardson believes the fact that more families can now access the support they need within their own communities is partly responsible for the growth in the overall number of food parcels distributed by the Mission, but that it fails to tell the whole story.
“Unfortunately, we have experienced the same level of growth at our inner-city drop-in centre, which theoretically shouldn’t have been affected by the development of our satellite partnership programme,” she says.
Rather than a single contributing factor, the Mission believes the rise in need across Auckland can be attributed to a combination of issues.
“Dramatically-increased housing costs, recent changes to the benefit system and a general lack of debt consolidation services, for instance, mean that more and more families are struggling.”