Demand soars at foodbank

20:14, Jul 03 2012
Food Bank
FOOD FOR FAMILIES: Nelson Community Food Bank's Mary Holz and Mike Gibson with food donated by students at Nayland College.

Nelson Community Foodbank has been unable to fill its co-ordinator vacancy for more than a year after the previous volunteer left, while demand from hungry families continues to soar.

Nelson Foodbank chairman Mike Gibson said the number of people receiving its free food parcels had more than tripled since 2008, rising from 905 recipients to 2892 for the past 12 months.

Last month a  dozen food parcels in a day had been given - the highest number given out in a day for several years - as more people came forward after struggling to feed themselves and their families.

''Twelve food parcels in one day is the most we've had for years or maybe ever. The highest is normally nine or 10, but 12 is a big number,'' he said.

And food has been scarce, Mr Gibson said, thankful for yesterday's donation from Nayland College students who collected about 400 items of food.

Nineteen-year-old student Gemma Winstanley organised the annual food collection at Nayland College this year.

The annual collection started from a school project about poverty in 2008.

It prompted questions about helping Nelson children struggling for food after students learnt one in five New Zealand children live below the poverty line.

The food would boost the foodbank's pantry, which was slowly building up again after the weekly $100 meat order had been stopped for a few weeks because funds became stretched, Mr Gibson said.

On average almost $500 was spent on food and meat a week, although that had crept to $600 a week on occassions this winter.

The foodbank had also struggled with demand at times because it had been unable to replace its former co-ordinator, Jackie McCullagh, who retired from the voluntary role in April last year.

Mr Gibson, the foodbank community chairman, was working about 20 hours a week making the food parcels and picking up the slack, until an alternative could be found. Other volunteers had also stepped up to manage the service.

The volunteer co-ordinator's job had been advertised in Nelson media over the past year, while flyers had also been posted, but all to no avail.

''Two people came forward, knowing it was voluntary, but when they found out the requirements they couldn't work it without pay,'' Mr Gibson said.

The matter would likely be discussed at the foodbank's annual meeting next month when a new committee was elected.

The foodbank supports referrals from Work and Income New Zealand and community organisations, such the Salvation Army and Budget Advice.

Major Jill Knight, Salvation Army community manager, said more Nelson families were turning to the organisation for help.

''It isn't the usual ones we're seeing, it's families ... they are the ones reluctant to ask for help so they leave it until they are really desperate,'' she said.

Many people struggling were those forced to shift house, including some relocating from Christchurch, an indication the city's homeless problem was spreading to Nelson.