By DAVID HILL
Local food banks are feeling the pressure as winter takes its toll on local families.
The Salvation Army’s Rangiora food bank has more than 300 families on its books who have received at least one food parcel in the last 12 months.
Its community ministries and Family Store manager, June Lang, says around 10 food parcels are made up each week to feed hungry families who are struggling to make ends meet.
This winter has proved similar to last year, but follows several years of increasing demand.
“It had been increasing year on year as people struggle with high power bills over the winter and high rents.
“Once they’ve had two food parcels, we look at budgeting advice and what their needs are, and refer them to more specialist help.”
Salvation Army Rangiora Captain Nigel De Maine says working families are increasingly in need of help.
“It’s not just the homeless or the unemployed who come in for food parcels. More and more so it’s single-parent families who are working, or even two-income families.
“They might be getting by each week, but if the car breaks down or there’s a death in the family, it can break them.”
Ms Lang says often it is only groceries that people can cut back on.
With many families paying around $400 to $500 a week in rent, Mr De Maine says “rent has to drop somehow”.
“We have a lot of people who have fallen off the top of the hill and we are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, so we need a way to catch them at the top and that’s going to take a combined effort with the government and the community.”
Mr De Maine says the food bank is well-supported by the local community, with Toot for Tucker stocking up the cupboards before Christmas.
The Watties Canned for Good initiative has seen nine local schools donate around 3000 cans in recent weeks, including 1400 from Rangiora High School.
“But we need perishable items such as fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, bread and milk,” Ms Lang says.
“We receive fresh vegetables once a week from Grown at Sefton, so that leaves meat, bread and milk which we end up buying.”
Oxford Community Trust co-ordinator Jo Ealam and Oxford Baptist Church community pastor Tamar Hiands say their food banks are steady, but they are not facing the same pressures as winter last year.
Mrs Ealam says 169 food parcels have been given out so far this year, with the biggest demand proving to be for firewood.
Ms Hiands says her foodbank is “very blessed” by community support, particularly from the Oxford Fresh Choice Supermarket and Satisfy Food Rescue.
Salvation Army Rangiora also runs a programme called “Just Brass”, providing lessons with brass instruments to children struggling with learning difficulties or autism, which is producing some good results, Mr De Maine says.