Food a discretionary item for some

Food discretionary item

Food has become a discretionary item in many people’s budgets.

Its low priority is just one of the changes Delphina Soti, General Manager of the St Vincent de Paul food Hub in Auckland is seeing.

Covid has a long tail and there are many layers of need in the community, she says.

“There’s a lot of talk about things coming back to normal but in reality recovery takes a couple of years.”

What is not normal is the spiralling cost of living leaving people struggling to keep their heads above water. Fixed costs come first.

“Food is becoming so expensive that it has become a discretionary item. People opt to pay for housing and amenities before food,” says Soti.

She notes some families are juggling three or four jobs that don’t pay as well as the jobs they had pre-Covid, observing many are industrial type jobs to pay the bills, the work is harder and takes a toll on family members.

Soti says the ‘new normal’ is also impacting many young Pasifika and Maori who are opting to work rather than taking up tertiary education.

They need to help pay for housing, rent, debt-servicing, food and petrol, she says.

Soti also points out Covid’s ‘cost’ on people’s mental health is “a big concern”.

About a third cannot work – reasons include health or mental health issues, and very young children. Many are business owners. Many have families to support.

With money tight and mental health fragile, food banks are frantically busy, says Soti.

She says that when the pandemic began to escalate in 2020, Vinnies Auckland expanded its operation from a 200 square metre warehouse to one of 1100 square metres with a drive-through system allowing people who have already registered to come at an allocated time to pick up their food boxes.

“Hundreds of boxes are pre-packed by staff and volunteers throughout the week.

“On pick-up day, it’s like a drive-through takeaway service,” says Soti.

“We had to figure out a way to meet the huge demand and keep it safe, dignified and non-contact.”

Vinnies works with networks, farms and food producers to procure nutritious food at cost price.

Soti says the parcels are based on larger family units, are high in nutritional value and make a significant difference to families.

Vinnies Auckland distributes around 500 food parcels a week – but peak demand this year saw 1,200 parcels flying out the door.


  • Supplied
Additional reading

News category: Great reads, New Zealand.

Tags: , , , ,