by Chris Tobin
A supplier of essential food to food banks and other welfare agencies in Timaru and Temuka has received a “kick in the teeth” failing to get Government funding.
“If we closed down in Timaru or Christchurch 6000 people wouldn’t get a meal next day, or the day after that,” Foodbank Canterbury chief executive John Milligan said.
The food bank collected donated food from supermarkets and other outlets around Timaru and Temuka then distributed it to agencies such as the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, Women’s Refuge, Family Works and others for people in need.
The Government recently announced $30million in the budget to meet immediate welfare and food needs following up on $27million to assist non-government agencies and community groups deliver services to vulnerable groups under the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown.
“We were told by the welfare manager for the Canterbury Civil Defence operations centre three weeks ago we do not qualify as a food relief organisation because we don’t deliver the food to the door,” Mr Milligan said.
When he asked the manager where he thought the money handed out by organisations such as the Salvation Army came from, the reply was:
“That’s totally irrelevant.”
A National Emergency Management Agency spokesman said Civil Defence emergency management groups had received Government funding for non-government and community-based organisations, including food banks, to provide household goods and supplies to people who had immediate needs attributable to the impact of Covid-19, and where these needs could not be met by other sources of support.
The spokesman said it was left to the individual groups to apply their judgement in determining what should be funded.
“Groups have discretion about the arrangements to be entered into with food banks and other community organisations in relation to the provision of this funding.
“Arrangements should take into the account the different cost structures of different food banks and community providers, for example donated /purchased goods; paid staff /volunteers; packaging and delivery approaches.”
Mr Milligan said they needed the funding.
“We’re short of product we can get from supermarkets – pasta, cereals, tins of baked beans – and we’ve got a set-up where we can buy directly at a very good rate, so we need this funding.”
He said under the arrangement it had, Foodbank Canterbury could buy three times the quantity an average supermarket customer could.
Demand for food from Foodbank Canterbury had increased significantly since the Covid-19 lockdown began, he said.
Normally it handled 40 tonnes of food a month in Timaru and Christchurch; this was now up to 96 tonnes.
“We shut down in Timaru at first then resumed three and a-half weeks ago. Our food demand had a 106% increase.
He expected this would increase even more once the wage subsidy came off and the economic situation worsened.
“We’ve already seen a pronounced effect in Christchurch with the loss of three Bunnings [stores], and jobs at Smith’s City and Air NZ.”
The biggest concern he had was for rural areas which, in his view, were being overlooked. Mr Milligan hoped Foodbank Canterbury could extend further into rural parts of South Canterbury.