by John Subritzky
More people are lacking adequate income to make ends meet. Inflation - including accommodation costs - and the Covid-19 lockdown have taken their toll. Now some are losing their jobs with the vaccine mandates.
Foodbanks across Auckland are run by volunteers, with some paid leadership. It is usually a labour-intensive effort involving a lot of logistics. Food is collected from multiple sources. Then the volunteers come to sort and pack the boxes, ready for people to pick up. Some boxes have to be delivered to people who have no transport. When Beacon Community News called on a foodbank that was filling 150 cartons, there were 20 volunteers working for three hours to get the task completed.
Foodbanks are now part of the community landscape. Retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers donate food that is getting close to expiry dates, reducing food waste. Donors provide cash to purchase items that are not available otherwise. Sometimes Auckland Council and Government agencies will provide crucial backup support to enable food banks to continue.
Fair Food in Rosebank Rd is a major link between food suppliers and food banks. In October, they distributed 102 tonnes of food to 35 other charities for distribution. They estimate that this reduced carbon emissions by 79,988kgs. Food that cannot be saved is sent off as animal feed. With lots of food, comes lots of plastic. Fair Food has partnered with Future Post in Waiuku, who make non-toxic fence posts and garden planter boxes from recycled plastic.
Another big organisation is Visionwest – Pātaka Kai. They are currently providing about 800 boxes of food per week. They have experienced a huge increase in demand, with 8,650 parcels distributed in Sept/Oct. This almost equalled the 8,792 parcels distributed for the whole of 2020!
Adam is one of the two of their volunteers that are among the 100 Local Medallists for the Local Hero of the Year Award Te Pou Toko o te Tau. Adam starts his days bright and early, volunteering each morning at Visionwest foodbank. The youth worker arrives every weekday at 6.45am and does much of the heavy lifting needed to run the foodbank before starting his day job at 9am. Adam began volunteering with Visionwest during the first Covid-19 lockdown and never stopped. At the end of his workday, he returns to the foodbank for another afternoon shift. Adam’s extraordinary contribution comes on top of his job helping rangatahi living on the streets. Through his dedication, energy, and kindness he has helped feed more than 1,000 families in the last year.
Feed the Streets, now part of Kai Avondale, is a familiar part of the Avondale community. It is part of the I Love Avondale organisation. The team providing regular dinners for those in need, and a food bank, is headed by local identity Anne Riley. Anne says, “At Kai Avondale we have seen an increase in demand of over 100% since June 2021. We are assisting many people who have had work hours reduced and lost jobs during this current lockdown. With price increases especially around grocery items it is making it harder for the average families to make ends meet. This lockdown has seen more people needing assistance who have jobs.”
Glenavon Community Hub is a small food bank focused on its local community. It is referral based, responding to needs identified through local schools, community hubs and Kāinga Ora. There is a lot of Kāinga Ora housing in the hub’s area, so they work closely with the ministry in identifying and assisting people who need help. It is part of the new direction of Kāinga Ora to widen its social services beyond accommodation only.
During the Covid lockdown, Glen Avon Hub was unable to work from its base in the grounds of Glenavon School, so they temporarily combined their efforts with the Blockhouse Bay Baptist Food Bank and worked from the church site. They have seen demand increase recently and now interact with about 60 families a week. Led by Eva Wongchiu, they proactively listen for opportunities to find other ways to help families. This might be introducing people to other services or assisting them find employment by helping them with writing CVs. Sometimes, Eva asks them “If the food bank is not here tomorrow, what will you do then?” This opens the conversation to find other ways forward.
Many people in our community are volunteering their time to food banks as a practical way to help others who are facing overwhelming needs. It really is community in action.