Demand for help ‘like a tsunami’

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by Chris Tobin

Demand for Family Works’ food bank in Timaru has been “like a tsunami”, Family Works manager Liz Nolan says.

“We’ve experienced a huge increase in demand for food parcels over the past two to three months and in the past eight weeks it was like a tsunami.

“We have provided 670 food parcels during this time across all of the South Canterbury community while 311 were to other agencies and services in the community.”

The food parcels provided families with basic food items for three meals each week, meat, pasta, rice, fresh fruit and vegetables and other basic household items.

“Prior to Covid-19 Family Works would have provided 60-70 food parcels of this size over a month.”

Presbyterian Support South Canterbury chief executive Carolyn Cooper said she was delighted at the support and generosity shown with donations of food and money to their Family Works food bank by individuals, business, service groups and trusts.

Support come from the Timaru District Council, Ministry of Social Development, local businesses, service clubs and groups, and individuals.

“The response has been amazing, however we really need this to continue for longer because the demand for the food bank is going to be with us for quite some time”

Ms Nolan said they were also able to provide some families with frozen meals from Presbyterian Support Services which was appreciated especially for grandparents raising grandchildren.

“In addition to this we have seen an increased demand in the need for warm winter bedding and clothing.

“We have also experienced an increase in inquiries and requests for the services and programmes that we offer especially for counselling services.

“We’re aware this trend will continue to increase over the coming months, given that the level of unemployment is predicted to increase significantly in the region.”

Salvation Army Timaru Community Ministries spokeswoman Louise Parry said before Covid-19, the community ministries team distributed 30 food parcels on average a week.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic this rose to an average of 52 per week. This total includes blessing boxes, which our team distribute to elderly people in the community who have been isolated through the lockdown.”

Throughout the pandemic they had continued in all aspects of welfare, including the immediate need for food, along with social work, counselling and budget advice.

“Not being able to see clients face-to-face has been difficult. We find people who come to us needing food often have other needs that we can assist with. However, without that face-to-face contact, this is more difficult to gauge.

“Many of those needing our services have never had to ask for help before.

“We expect there will be an ongoing increase in need from New Zealanders who find themselves on reduced wages or out of jobs. Many of those needing our services have never had to ask for help before.

“We encourage anyone who finds themselves in need of food or housing to contact MSD in the first instance.”

Nationwide the Salvation Army has received $4.8million in public donations for its food banks.

Good work…Stocking up the St Vincent de Paul Timaru foodbank are, from left, John O’Neill, Ann Harris, Tui Scannell and Elaine Byrnes. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

Meanwhile, Timaru St Vincent de Paul shop committee chairman John O’Neill said it had also been advised by head office to anticipate more people coming forward needing help.

Its shop helped those with furniture and dental health needs and operated a food bank which reopened on Monday. During the lockdown closure it handed on requests for food to the Salvation Army.