A Christmas feast was enjoyed by 170 guests at All Saints Anglican Church in Nelson.
That was 50 more than last year, an indicator of hard economic times, said Loaves and Fishes co-ordinator Mary Sullivan.
Loaves and Fishes, which provides lunch three times a week for people in the community and dinner once a week for families, yesterday served a Christmas lunch.
Co-ordinators Fran Martin and Jeanette Thompson with a team of volunteers began preparing on Saturday for the menu of roast chicken, ham on the bone, roast vegetables, new potatoes, peas and carrots followed by pavlova, cream and fruit salad and Christmas cake.
Because there were so many guests a marquee donated by Hirequip was set up outside the church to take the overflow.
Children received gifts that had been donated by St Joseph's School pupils. Ms Sullivan said the middle syndicate held a disco and instead of an entry donation were asked to bring a Christmas present for children at the Christmas lunch.
"It was probably the best Christmas lunch in the four years Fran has been involved in organising it, and it was a fantastic laid-back atmosphere," she said.
Ms Sullivan said it was noticeable that people were struggling this Christmas.
"Our numbers at Loaves and Fishes have been consistently high. We're still getting 40 to 50 at lunches when it usually tails off to 20 to 30 at this time," she said.
They were regulars - including people with mental health and alcohol and drug addiction issues - but also new people, even people who were working but still struggling to make ends meet, said Ms Sullivan.
"We've certainly had more people coming to us seeking assistance. "It's just the usual increased rent, power and food costs. Everything culminates together. Even finding that extra $20 or $30 is sometimes all it takes to make it impossible. It makes people's ability to celebrate Christmas very difficult for them."
Her Christmas message to Nelsonians is: "Just about being kind to each other. In Nelson there is a lot people less fortunate and often that is hidden."
Loaves and Fishes meals will resume on January 27.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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