'Charity culture' developing as food parcel demand rises

stuff.co.nz

Southland food bank charitable trust chairman Peter Swain discusses what goes in to a food parcel for a family of three.

Demand for charity food parcels has risen across the board in Southland with one budget advice group saying an expectant "charity culture" is developing.

Invercargill volunteer organisations say there was an increased demand for food parcels throughout 2015. 

Budgeting services said some families collected three food parcels a year, while others miss out. 

Rakib Mahbub, Liz Merito and Parisuthan Kaneshwaren of the Invercargill Koha Shed say they receive over four messages a ...
NICOLE JOHNSTONE/FAIRFAX NZ

Rakib Mahbub, Liz Merito and Parisuthan Kaneshwaren of the Invercargill Koha Shed say they receive over four messages a day from families struggling to make ends meet.

The Koha Shed planned food runs for December, and said demand for food packages were at a high.

Koha Shed co-ordinator Liz Merito said they received about four requests a day.

"People need food more than anything else."

The group received messages requesting support on the group Facebook page, Merito said. 

"People explain their stories through messages. What we want is the community to have the opportunity to respond to people in need, rather than relying on charity."

READ MORE: 
Food banks running low on supplies

Most of the food requests came from South Invercargill, Merito said.

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"A lot of messages come from South Invercargill, but most of our donations come from Waikiwi. We don't really get messages from students, it's people with children." 

Volunteer members of the Koha Shed, who were SIT students, would travel the streets of Invercargill to collect food for their goal of 100 food parcels by Christmas. 

Southland Food Bank Charitable Trust chairman Peter Swain said demand for food had increased 25 per cent in 2015 compared to 2014. 

"It's growing all the time. We're averaging around five [requests] a day, so that's 25 a week and it's getting quite high." 

The food bank would hold a food drive with the Harcourts group on December 9. 

Salvation Army community ministries needs assessor Brenda King said demand for food parcels rose at the end of the year. 

"This is a step up now. It's higher than last year."

People needed to plan ahead for financial challenges, King said.

"People are living on such tight budgets, both beneficiaries and working people. If an emergency or unforeseen expense comes along, they don't have a reserve." 

Their Adopt a Family was a successful scheme that would continue, King said.

"From the food bank side, the clients we have would have increased from last year."

Jubilee Budget Advisory Service manager Sharon Soper said they had seen a rise in demand for food packages.

"We've seen a change in people's expectations that they deserve it. If they're declined a statement from Work and Income, they come to us." 

Food banks were designed for emergencies, but charity culture had become more demanding, Soper said. 

"Sometimes organisations think they are helping and they give out food and parcels to people they know. We had some people last year who we know had three to four parcels." 

Invercargill Budget Advisory Service coordinator Sonya Donnelly said not many families saved in advance for Christmas. 

"It's about saving throughout the year. 

"Even if it's only five dollars a week, that's $250 by Christmas." 

Families could also plan for sales and buy online to save for Christmas, Donnelly said. 

 - Stuff

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