Vinnies helping ever more people with food parcels

food parcels

Food charities say they have seen a big increase in people needing food parcels. One says people even fight for food outside community pantries.

National poverty critical

St Vincent de Paul’s Hamilton manager, Mike Rolton (pictured), says New Zealand is currently experiencing poverty on a level unknown in modern times.

“Six years ago we gave out 600 food parcels. Last year we did 6,000 parcels. This year we’ve forecast we’ll do 7,000 parcels, so you can see the increase” he says.

Where in the past the public made donations to “Vinnies” Hamilton, that’s dwindled as people can no longer afford it, Rolton says.

“We’re using more of our own money to buy food. In the past we would have been lucky to spend $20,000 a year. Now we’re spending about $100,000 a year on food to put in our parcels.”

Doing it tough

One of the Hamilton families depending on Vinnies food parcels has a single mum.

She was left with eight dependent children five years ago after her partner was killed in a car accident.

Today she still has five children aged five to 17 at home.

“I have a budget of $100 … I buy frozen vegetables, the cheapest meat … and I try to get a bag of spuds each week which we ration out.”

She is on a benefit and after $480 for her two-bedroom rental is gone, the power paid for and her $100 weekly family food budget spent, she’s left with next to nothing.

“Tossing up between paying my rent or buying food is pretty much where I’m at” she says.

The Vinnies food parcels are essential – though a last resort.

“I don’t see Vinnies every week as I don’t want to abuse them. I try to use them every second week when something like the power bill comes in.

Her food parcels generally include canned food, pasta, long-life milk and a pack of mince.

“The ladies at the food bank are awesome. Every now and again I get some muffins. I take them home and it’s a treat for my little ones.”

Everyone’s scraping the barrel

Vinnies Hamilton estimates that while half their food parcels go to beneficiaries, the other half go to people in paid employment. Rolton says Vinnies is seeing a growing number of people dropping from “middle class” to the “working poor”.

“We’re seeing a lot of workers who you wouldn’t expect to be asking for help with food. But we’ve seen their budgets and they need help.

“A number of people working for government organisations are coming to us … social workers may need help, working couples are coming in … they’re in tears when we give them parcels.”

Children suffer

Child Poverty Action Group states one in eight Kiwi kids are living in material hardship.

This means they can’t afford six or more basics including fresh food, heating, doctor’s visits, car maintenance and unexpected bills.

Over a fifth of Māori children and a third of Pasifika children live in poverty.

The Group also says half of Kiwi kids in poverty are in households where parents work.


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