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Foodbank report provides a baseline

NZ Council of Christian Social Services
15 August 2008

Foodbank report provides a baseline

The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) today released a report on food bank use - the “Poverty Indicators Project Update – A Snapshot Comparative Analysis of Foodbank Use”. The report compares foodbank data collected in the 3 months ending December 2007 with the same period in 2004.

“This report demonstrates that in the foodbanks we surveyed there was no change in the number of people who needed to access foodbanks due to their income being unable to meet basic needs,” said Trevor McGlinchey, Executive Officer of NZCCSS. “This was despite three years of economic growth, the Working for Families package and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) strategy to eliminate the need for foodbanks”.

“The majority of the foodbanks’ clients only received one food parcel in the 3 month period covered. They were not using the foodbank as a regular strategy to cover a shortfall, rather they were driven to seek help by desperate circumstances”, said Mr McGlinchey. “In October to December 2007, even after year-on-year increases in economic activity, many beneficiaries and low-paid workers were still not earning enough to always be able to purchase basic food supplies”.

Given the startling increases in food and fuel prices that have struck after the data for this report was gathered NZCCSS sees the report as providing a baseline for understanding the effects of these increases. NZCCSS has received recent reports of increases of 20% to 70% in foodbank use along with record high demand for budgeting advice and other support services since the beginning of 2008. While this has stretched foodbanks to the limit, in most areas there have been more donations made through supermarket boxes and from corporate donors. There has also been a corresponding increase in the financial support provided by churches. The recently released policy of doubling the access to Work and Income food grants, from once to twice per year, will also be of benefit but this has yet to have an impact on demand for foodbank services.

“New Zealanders have responded to these dramatic increases by giving generously to support their neighbours. This has really heartened the foodbank workers, who are rushed off their feet by the extra demand”, says Mr McGlinchey, “We strongly appreciate the spirit of aroha tētahi ki tētahi – of looking after each other that this generosity demonstrates. Yet as advocates for poor and vulnerable New Zealanders we do not think that they should have to rely on their neighbours and their churches to feed their families”.

NZCCSS has made three recommendations as a result of this report.
1. Provide full Working for Families type support to all low income people – no matter their source of income or whether they have children
2. Index benefits more closely to the Food Price Index rather than the Consumer Price Index
3. MSD should work collaboratively with foodbanks and the social service sector to develop and implement actions that will reduce the need for foodbanks.

Given the seriousness of the current situation the Council are seeking support from all political parties for policies that address the needs of the poorest New Zealanders.

Copies of the report are available at www.justiceandcompassion.org.nz


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