Surging demand for soup kitchen meals

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2014

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@devlincolle Demand at Invercargill's six soup kitchens has "gone through the roof" with more people than ever needing a free meal.

But despite growing numbers and regardless of motive, volunteers say everyone is welcome and no-one would be turned away.

St John's Parish Soup Kitchen volunteer Joan Marshall said most of the city's soup kitchens had experienced a growth in attendance.

The seven volunteers at the St John's hall gave out 100 servings to about 70 people each Friday afternoon, a far cry from the 13 servings dished out when it opened in 2001.

The operation offered the community soup, toast, bread and home-made jam, tea, coffee and juice. They also gave out containers of staples such as flour, sugar and salt.

The Salvation Army donated 10kg sacks of the staples, which were divided up by volunteers into small containers provided by parishioners.

"There is a lot of poverty in Invercargill and many people in need."

Although the kitchen fed the homeless, struggling families and the lonely, it was open to anyone in the community.

Often students and tourists came for a meal, she said.

An earthquake assessment before Christmas temporarily shut the kitchen but it had been cleared and would reopen on January 31.

The volunteers helped out because they got a lot out of it, she said.

"When people are in need, you have to help."

Volunteer Linda Burgess said she felt it was her duty help out - it was her way of giving back to the community.

The Tay St kitchen could not operate without the help of the community and organisations providing food and resources, such as Couplands Bakery and the ILT Foundation, Mrs Marshall said.

Invercargill Central Baptist Church Central Silo in Deveron St provides meals on Thursday evenings.

Convener Diane Mowat said more people were being fed. About 40 people came each week and 70 people attended the special Christmas meal.

Some people who came did not need food but were lonely and wanted companionship, she said.

Eastside Baptist Church pastor Chris Lee said more people were coming to get a meal in the Glengarry church on Wednesdays.

"There is an Invercargill soup kitchen operating most days of the week, which is good," Mr Lee said.

Jubilee Budget Advisory Services manager Simon Tierney works closely with the soup kitchens and food banks, making many referrals for free meals and food parcels. Demand had grown, he said.

Some people were living day-to-day off the free meals and also getting food parcels.

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While many people needed the help, others abused the system and supplemented benefits for loans and habits.

"I rarely see a client who gets no financial help but you have to ask where does the money go . . . smoking is a huge cost and a big issue for many."

For some lonely people, the free meal was a way to get companionship.

Pride was an issue that prevented some people in genuine need from attending and this concerned him.

He urged those in need to reach out because they could be assured of help.

 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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