by Chris Tobin
Timaru’s foodbanks are feeling the strain under growing demand heading into Christmas while recent arrival Foodbank Canterbury says it is “going gangbusters”.
Salvation Army Lieutenant Emma Howan said the usual trend was for the number of people seeking food parcels to drop away and then to increase as Christmas approached.
“There has been no drop-off but it has increased earlier in October.”
In general, the Salvation Army handed out a total of 20 to 25 food parcels each week, but that had now increased to 45 a week.
Those seeking their assistance came from all age groups, she said .
“We have seniors as well as young families and all have different income sources.
“There are two-parent families who are both still working to people on benefits.”
A rising cost of living appeared to be one factor driving demand but Mrs Howan said it was difficult to pinpoint the chief cause.
Toot for Tucker had boosted the Salvation Army’s food supplies but these were rapidly dwindling and she said food donations, canned goods, pastas and other goods would be welcomed.
The Salvation Army foodbank was one of nine agencies Foodbank Canterbury supplied around Timaru.
The organisation set up in Timaru’s Cains Tce earlier this year, collecting food from supermarkets and other outlets then handing it to social agencies for distribution, including to one low decile school.
“It has been bigger than when we started in Christchurch,” Foodbank Canterbury chief executive John Milligan said of its launch into Timaru.
“Timaru has been phenomenal. We couldn’t have done it without the help of the community. The help has been amazing and far better than what we got in Christchurch.
“In the two to three-and-a-half months we’ve been in Timaru we’ve received and distributed .. food which equates to over 5400 meals.”
The demand was not just for food but also general household products, such as cleaners.
“We’ve noticed a hidden undercurrent in the region also. We call it food insecure deserts’.
“We concentrate on the metropolitan areas but we are getting calls from Waimate, Fairlie and Geraldine.
It’s been a big eye-opener for us.”
Mr Milligan said the organisation was planning strategies to expand its service to other parts of South Canterbury.
He expected demand on foodbanks in late January, early February “when the bills start coming in” would again be heavier than pre-Christmas.
Foodbank Canterbury would close on December 20 and reopen on January 6.
St Vincent de Paul spokeswoman Mary Brown said demand for its foodbank was bigger than at the same time last year.
“I couldn’t put a number on it. Things are too dear to buy in the shops.”