Hungry families empty foodbank shelves

HARRY PEARL
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2014
Tina Ralph and Gail and John Howell
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ

OVERSUBSCRIBED: Huntly Community Advice Centre staff Tina Ralph and Gail and John Howell are struggling to keep up with foodbank demand.

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Huntly families unable to feed themselves adequately have been forced to drive to Hamilton for assistance because the local food bank has been too stretched.

Huntly Community Advice Centre, which runs the food bank, has struggled to keep up with demand for food parcels over the past few months.

Layoffs at Huntly East Mine and more stringent rules and obligations around assistance from Work and Income had put extra pressure on the service, according to Lyn Tupaea, a co-ordinator at the centre.

"We're just managing," she told the Waikato Times.

Between December and February the centre provided food to 69 clients - 19 more than the previous year.

"We're the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, so to speak," Ms Tupaea said.

"We're trying to take the stress from people, because let's face it, things have gotten a lot harder - more so over the past three years."

Ms Tupaea said the food bank tried its best to provide nutritious food to its clients, who came from as far south as Horotiu and as far north as Meremere.

Each box usually contained Weetbix, milk powder, eggs and meat when it was possible.

Although the service has received support from Huntly Library, the towns' three banks and Countdown, among others, it was still finding things tough.

Prior to Christmas, it was forced to go door to door around Huntly to gather food for the third year in a row.

Hamilton St Vincent de Paul general manager Mike Rolton said there was a noticeable increase in Huntly residents driving to Hamilton to ask for food late last year.

The numbers prompted the society to step in. It has since provided the food bank with a package of frozen goods and two pallets of canned goods, which were delivered yesterday.

Ms Tupaea said donations would take pressure off the service and people that wanted to donate food - or money - could drop it in at the centre in Huntly.

Meanwhile, a Salvation Army report released today shows "credible progress" in some areas of social wellbeing but a lack of willingness by successive governments to deal with crucial issues, Salvation Army social policy director Campbell Roberts said.

The annual state of the nation report showed a drop in infant mortality, a reduction in teenage pregnancy rates, a reduction in overall criminal offending to the lowest rate in 34 years and a drop in the unemployment rate.

However, this being an election year it was important New Zealanders drove home to politicians that eliminating family violence and child poverty should be a greater priority, Roberts said.

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