NZ Local News

Christmas Appeal: Tauranga Foodbank workers’ hours increase to cope demand

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When Halena Pritchard started working at Tauranga’s foodbank in April 2022, she was receiving an average of 17 household referrals a day.

Now she gets 37.

A “dramatic increase” in demand for food parcels has meant that Pritchard, who works as the support coordinator, has had to work an extra 10 hours a week.

But she still feels it’s “not enough”.

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It comes as the Bay of Plenty Times launches its six-week annual Christmas Appeal for the foodbank.

This year, the foodbank has helped 22,298 people from 8213 households, which included 11,797 children.

“Last month we helped 2087 people, the previous month was 1900 and then 1700 the month before that,” Pritchard said.

There has been a 33 per cent increase in food parcels for households since last year.

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Pritchard attributed the rise to “the sharp increase in cost-of-living” and said “we’ve seen more people from various economic backgrounds that have never needed to use our services before coming in”.

More people required support for more than the standard four days‘ worth of groceries and foodbank supplies in the form of a “top-up”, which provides seven days’ worth of support.

The foodbank was spending an average of just over $20,000 per month on staple foods compared to about $14,800 the year before.

Foodbank volunteers hard at work. Photo / Mead Norton
Foodbank volunteers hard at work. Photo / Mead Norton

Pritchard said she noticed the increase in referrals before Christmas last year.

“It always ramps up around Christmas time but after Christmas last year, it never really dropped off.”

“I receive anywhere from 35 to 70 referrals a day,” she said.

“When I started working here, it surprised me so many different people needed support.

“People with fulltime jobs are needing support because things like rent and bills are just incrementally going up.

“It definitely goes under the radar,” Pritchard said.

“A lot of people tend to struggle in silence and I think it’s quite a courageous step for them to actually reach out for help.”

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Foodbank manager Nicki Goodwin said her hours had also increased.

“Both Georgia and I have only gone up five hours a week but Halena’s has gone up so much because she manages the food support side of things.”

“The increase in referrals is astonishing but it shouldn’t surprise me,” Goodwin said.

“It makes me really sad that things have deteriorated so badly for so many people and that we’re helping so many new people who would never ever have thought they’d need to access an organisation like a foodbank.”

Tauranga Community Foodbank wishlist 2023

  • Treats
  • Cereal
  • Spreads
  • Nappies: Size four, five, six
  • Drinking chocolate and coffee
  • Muesli bars
  • Canned fruit
  • Tinned fish

Any items are welcome, even if they’re not on the list.

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