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R: The food bank at Nga Whare Waatea in Māngere (Photo: Supplied)
R: The food bank at Nga Whare Waatea in Māngere (Photo: Supplied)

SocietyAugust 16, 2020

South Auckland’s food banks brace for a surge in demand

R: The food bank at Nga Whare Waatea in Māngere (Photo: Supplied)
R: The food bank at Nga Whare Waatea in Māngere (Photo: Supplied)

With the extension of alert level three set to stretch many South Auckland families even further, Justin Latif reports on how organisations are preparing to help feed those most in need.

Food banks across South Auckland are scrambling to get themselves ready for an expected surge in demand, following Friday’s announcement that the level three lockdown was being extended.

South Auckland Christian Food Bank’s Ian Foster says they are increasing its capacity and expect to be doing more than 80 deliveries a day. 

“We’re busier … we couldn’t cope without extra staff, so we’ve had to hire more,” he says. “We did get some extra funding [prior to this lockdown], maybe not as much as we would have liked, but most of our support comes from people that have donated food or made donations.” 

He says many of the recent recipients are people who have lost jobs in the last three months and are struggling to survive on the current benefit levels.

“If people are on a benefit, living in Auckland in a private rental, it’s very difficult to live and to be able to feed their families. It’s not good.”

Ōtara Health’s Tuava’a Lefono packing a food parcel at their temporary base. (Photo: Supplied)

Manukau Urban Māori Authority (Muma) chief executive Wyn Osborne says its food bank will be operating by appointment only on a contactless basis during the level three lockdown, and it will use Māori wardens to deliver parcels and hygiene packs to the elderly.

“We have been here before,” he says. “At this point during the last lockdown we had queues at the marae gate waiting for food. That crisis brought inspiration and the reconfiguration of our food bank service. Now it operates like a very relaxed drive-through. Whānau call the 0800 number, are assessed and then come to the marae to collect. However, we’re experiencing triple the number of calls and expect that demand to increase next week.” 

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is supporting Muma’s efforts with extra funding and additional staff, as well as supplying the marae with 5,000 face masks. 

The Salvation Army’s Manukau Centre manager Theresa Parker believes being at level three will help ease some demand. 

“Last lockdown we did huge numbers. We peaked at around 900 a week and averaged at around 450 the other weeks. But I think at level three, with supermarkets still open, it will be good for us, because people can still easily access food. Whereas at level four people were a bit nervous about going into supermarkets.”

Ōtara Health provided up to 300 food parcels a week during the last lockdown but this time around, due to limited supplies, its Ōtara food bank will be operating on a first in, first served basis for Ōtara and Papatoetoe residents only. 

Ōtara Health chief executive Sosefina Paletaoga says their capacity is limited due to a lack of funding, however they will be looking to access further support from either MSD or other sources to meet the demand.

“Generating funds and donations for our food bank is our priority. All our programmes are being delivered remotely and our offices have also been made available to DHB for the pop-up Covid testing station in Ōtara,” she says. 

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