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Tables Turn From Donating To Receiving Food Support

The Christchurch City Mission is providing around 200 more food parcels a month, compared to this time last year.

Not only has the demand increased, but the clientele has changed, which sees some of those who have donated to in the past, now needing help on the other end.

Social Services Manager Zucchi Leonard says food insecurity in communities is changing with an increase in the number of double income earners struggling to afford food after paying bills, interest rates, mortgage repayments and insurances.

“For the last five months we’ve seen a massive increase in the number of new clients compared to this time last year and that’s consistent, month on month,” she says.

“They’re the ‘working poor’ and we’ve definitely seen an increase. For some families, they’ve actually donated food to the City Mission in previous years, but now they’re having to come in and ask for help.”

The stark reality is that it’s not just the most vulnerable in the community that need food support anymore, she says, and any judgement or prejudice needs to be thrown out the window.

“This could be the teacher that’s teaching your kids or grandkids at the local school, who’s married to the mechanic that’s fixing your car. They’re both earning but not massively, they've got mortgages and increasing interest rates and they’re trying their best to get ahead but they’ve had bills come in and they can't afford food.”

When people come in and ask for food, they’re at crisis point and it’s a huge step, she says.

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Often families will pay their rent and their power first to ensure they have a roof over their heads, and warm homes to live in.

Food is one of the first things to be reduced.

“It's usually the adults who will cut back on food and they make sure that they have food for the children,” she says.

“When they come to us, it means they don’t have enough for their children either and they’re at crisis point wondering how they’re going to support their family and keep feeding their kids.”

If it wasn’t for donations of mince from farmer led charity Meat the Need, the City Mission also wouldn’t be able to put nutritious protein in their food parcels and the Self-Serve Foodbank.

“Meat proteins are the hardest things for us to source, and they are expensive - so having that delivery of Meat the Need once a month is crucial to what we do and we’re so incredibly grateful to be able to have it.”

However, this year she says it’s not lasting between deliveries due to the sheer numbers coming through the door needing assistance.

As a charity, the Mission doesn’t have endless amounts of funding and Government funding for food support offered during Covid has dried up.

The budget for the food bank is allocated for a 12-month period, broken down month by month.

The Mission must prioritise what they put in the food parcels with basics such as spaghetti, baked beans, rice and pasta often given priority, particularly as demand increases.

They often don't have money to spend on meat, she says, as the money has been allocated elsewhere and meat is an expensive item to include in the food parcels.

The value of including meat in a food parcel, she says, is invaluable, as it allows families to make a solid meal with protein.

Her message to farmers as Meat the Need heads into its fundraising drive, The Big Feed live rural telethon is to please donate produce if you can.

“Please donate a beast because meat is so important for us to provide for our clients who can do so much with mince, it's a fantastic product."

"The more people right across the country who can get on board and donate meat and milk, the better off our communities are going to be.”

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