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Demand for food support increased by 42% between 2022 and 2023, NZFN survey finds

NZFN doubles the amount of food being distributed to Kiwi communities year on year

New findings from Aotearoa’s largest not-for-profit food supply and distribution organisation, the New Zealand Food Network (NZFN) revealed a 42% increase in demand for food support in 2023 compared to 2022 and a whopping 83% increase from 2021.

The bi-annual NZFN Food Security Snapshot surveyed 60 of NZFN’s partner Food Hubs about the current state of demand for food support from July – December 2023.

Across 2023, NZFN supported an average of 630,000+ individuals per month with food support via its partner Food Hubs’ various services (food parcels, community meals, social supermarkets, free stores, recipient organisations). On average, a third (33%) of the Food Hubs’ monthly recipients have never needed to seek their support before.

Tracy Wellington, Chief Executive of NZFN partner Food Hub, Kiwi Community Assistance (KCA) says, “Demand from our partner agencies is outstripping our supply. In 2024, pretty much everything we collect from food rescue is gone within minutes of our trucks returning to our base. The stock from NZ Food Network is gone within 24 hours of its arrival.”

To meet this demand, the volume of food distributed by the hubs has more than doubled in July-Dec 2023, compared to the first half of last year (2,940,901 kgs vs 1,296,917 kgs), equating to 6,535,335 meals for vulnerable communities.

Sadly, the Food Hubs rated their own ability to meet the current level of demand at 3.08/5 – down from 3.15 in the last survey, and 3.45 in the previous.

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Nearly all (90%) of the Food Hubs stated the rising cost of living as a top reason for recipients seeking food support, followed by low household / individual income due to low-paying jobs (63%), and unexpected bills or expenses (58% up from 53%).

On average, 41% of the food distributed by Food Hubs was supplied by NZFN, and as the need grows, they will become increasingly reliant on NZFN to fill the shelves.

Christine Barton, Lead Coordinator Te Tai Poutini Kai Puku says they are “...extremely grateful for the food sent to us, it is a welcome addition to the rescue kai we distribute. We appreciate your mahi and collaboration with you to get kai out to our recipient organisations.”

NZFN Chief Executive Gavin Findlay says, “Our survey reveals a stark reality that the number of Kiwis struggling to access food continues to rise. And this is only set to worsen as we head into the colder months when families must find extra money to stay warm, dry, and deal with inevitable sickness. More often than not, food falls to the bottom of the priority list, and is why we must continue to take action.”

As more and more families struggle to put food on the table, NZFN is putting an urgent call out for Kiwis to donate to their Pitch In campaign which is halfway through the year long campaign. NZFN embarked on a mission to (virtually) fill Auckland’s iconic Eden Park with meals by World Food Day 2024, and they’re asking food businesses and the public to pitch in with bulk food donations and financial donations to reach this goal.

Former Rugby World Champion Piri Weepu is part of the line-up of famous faces supporting the cause, including Comedian Leigh Hart, Professional Rugby Player Sam Slade and award-winning Special Olympics athlete Grace Payne.

Piri Weepu (Photo supplied)

Weepu says, “I’m really proud to be backing Pitch In, and after volunteering at the NZFN, I’ve seen firsthand the difference that their mahi is making across the motu. We’re halfway to achieving our goal of filling the field, but we can’t stop the momentum now. So remember that every donation counts, no matter how big or small!

To make a bulk food or financial donation, visit pitchin.org.nz to learn more, and see how the New Zealand Food Network gets food to where it's needed most.

© Scoop Media

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