A five-year doctoral study by Waikato University sociologist Dr Kellie McNeill has found that charities served 25,000 free meals, Work and Income gave out 12,000 food grants and foodbanks gave out 4,000 food parcels in Hamilton in 2006-07.
That was at a time when the economy was booming.
National statistics suggest the recession may have roughly doubled those numbers since then. Today More than 40,000 children are being fed by charities every week as low-income families struggle to cope with soaring food prices.
Dr McNeill was moved to undertake the study after returning, in 2005, to the suburb of Fairfield in Hamilton where she had spent the first fifteen years of her life. A young man knocked on her door on a Sunday afternoon asking for food.
“I ate my own dinner that night wondering about the nature and prevalence of foodlessness in my community,” she said. “What had happened in my old neighbourhood that people were now reduced to door-knocking to meet basic needs?”