Source of solace for solo mum
ANNA TURNER speaks to a solo mother who sometimes needs the help of the Christchurch City Mission food bank to feed herself and her 19-month-old daughter.
Jenna Brooker sets her daughter down, folds away the laundry and goes to check on a batch of chocolate-chippie biscuits she has baking in the oven.
The 25-year-old is the picture of domesticity - balancing a happy daughter, a tidy home and the cooking.
But Brooker, a solo mother, has had a "tough run" during the past few months. She found herself needing the Women's Refuge, and has been struggling to make ends meet.
Since then, Brooker has been working to cover her expenses and provide a warm, safe home for herself and Violet.
Money was the hardest factor in starting their new life, she said.
"I was working as a florist but stopped working just before Violet was born . . . Suddenly, I was on my own and trying to pay for everything."
Brooker pays $96 a week for her two- bedroom Housing New Zealand (HNZ) flat, which leaves her with $250 from her benefit. Power bills and car repayments wipe out another chunk of her money, leaving her with little to spend on food.
"Sometimes it's just things like groceries or nappies that I don't have enough money for. It's harder than you would think looking after a little one by yourself."
One power bill, including a bond, cost her $450 and wiped out her week's money.
On the advice of her older sister, she went to the Christchurch City Mission's food bank for help.
"I was amazed at the size of the amount of stuff they gave me. It was the huge box of really yummy food like spaghetti, eggs and cheese. It's all the stuff that is too much for me to afford to buy," she said.
"It was like a present. I went home and looked at it all and thought of what I could make for Violet with it all."
The parcel included some treat items she would not otherwise be able to afford - like the chocolate chips for her baking.
"It's really good-quality stuff, like those packets of really expensive soup. It's hard to imagine that people want to throw this stuff away but we are very grateful."
Brooker goes to the food bank only when she really needs help, about once every month.
"I do view it as a last resort because I want to be able to support myself. They are really good there, though. They don't judge you, they just want to help."
Brooker had also visited a women's group at the mission for "coffee and a chat".
"Doing something social with other people who understand what you are struggling with really means a lot."
Brooker is due to give birth to her second child in November.
"It's a comfort knowing that if times get tough I can go to the mission, just in case," she said.
"It takes the worry out of your mind because you know no matter what happens you won't starve."