Foodbanks under real pressue

St Vincent de Paul Foodbank

The shelves are nearly bare at Dunedin’s foodbanks, as they grapple with record demand and the cancellation of a major donation event.

The area’s four foodbanks — Presbyterian Support Otago, the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul and the Mosgiel Community Food Bank, met yesterday to discuss the intense pressure their services have come under in the past month.

It comes as they prepare for the Christmas surge without the city’s annual Christmas can appeal, which usually boosts foodbank reserves but has this year been cancelled because of Covid restrictions.

Dunedin St Vincent de Paul (Vinnies) centre and pastoral coordinator, Sarah Strang, says the stocks ran so low at Vinnies’ foodbank this week, she had to make a plea for donations on social media.

Strang was stunned with the response of people.

“The results were wonderfully encouraging. People rallied and donated enough to keep the foodbank running for the next couple of weeks.”

Strang says the first people who walked in the door with food were people the St Vincent de Paul had previously helped.

“They don’t have a lot themselves, but recognized the call for help.

“People are very generous and will give if they know the need is there.

“People are so amazing. It’s heart-warming”, Strang said.

All Dunedin’s food banks are facing high needs, depleted shelves and a poor outlook.

Salvation Army Dunedin community ministries manager David McKenzie says October was busier than it has been in the five-plus years he had been in his role.

When asked what was driving the demand and the lack of food on the shelves, his response echoes Strang’s assessment. They blame housing costs taking up more of available income, lost work hours due to Covid and the inability this year to run the emergency services’ can appeal.

“There doesn’t appear to be any easy fix at the moment,” McKenzie says.

“All of the foodbanks are very low in stock, we’re just making it through day by day.”

When one of the city’s food banks was running low, usually they could seek a top up from one of the others.

But they were all in the same dire situation at the moment, Presbyterian Support Otago practice manager Deb Gelling says.

Gelling notes the foodbank experienced record demand during the last lockdown. Last week 33 food parcels were given out in a single day – an unusually high number.

Donations were still coming in and there had been some Government funding, but the shelves were still bare.

‘‘It is very unusual for us to be this low in stock. It’s definitely a different feel this year.’’

Work has begun on an alternative to the annual emergency service can appeal.

Organiser and senior firefighter Aimee Taylor says she hopes to have more details about this next week.


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