Timaru food banks experiencing big increase in demand
A Timaru food bank is spending up to $500 a week on groceries to keep up with demand from struggling families in the region.
Timaru's St Vincent De Paul has had to increase its weekly food bank shop this year to keep up with demand from "an increasing number" of people who are finding it harder to pay for basic food items, spokeswoman Mary Brown said.
While she did not have exact figures, as the charity was in the process of adopting a new technical data gathering system, she said about 50 more people a week were accessing their services compared to this time last year.
Both Presbyterian Support South Canterbury Family Works and Timaru's Salvation Army have also reported an increase in demand for food bank items.
All three organisations put the increase down to rising food costs, a cold winter and higher power bills.
Brown, who has been working with St Vincent De Paul for about 30 years, said she had been "blown away" by the increase of people she had seen this year, compared to last winter.
"It's absolutely phenomenal.
"We have been very, very busy."
The charity had been purchasing items each week to top up its food bank using a fund dedicated solely for that use, she said.
"It's the highest amount of money we've needed to use each week.
"We have been spending $500 on groceries each week through winter. That's what the money's for though, to help people."
Each food bank recipient was assessed on their need level and families were given priority, she said.
She said increasing food prices was one of the key reasons people said they needed help.
"I can't understand it. You go to one supermarket and the mince is $10 and then you go to another and it's $17."
She said donations for the food bank were always appreciated and could be dropped off at the charity's Stafford St store.
Family Works provides food bank support to many of the South Canterbury families it works with.
Parcels include "staples" such as rice, pasta, meal bases and meat items such as mince – basic pantry items that can help get a family through challenging times, Family Works manager Liz Nolan said.
In May, June and July of this year the organisation gave out 72 food parcels, compared to 44 parcels over the same period in 2016.
During the colder months, demand for food bank support tended to increase, as families faced increased costs for home heating and tight family budgets were stretched even further, she said.
"Food bank demand is an indication of the growing need in our local community," Nolan said.
"As demand continues to grow, we're always grateful for the support we get from local people and organisations for the food bank.
She said donations of non-perishable items such as rice, pasta, canned food, recipe bases and breakfast cereal were appreciated.
Timaru Salvation Army community ministries manager Jane Ferguson said demand had been high this winter for food bank items.
"We are busier than normal because of rising costs, the economy . . ."
She wasn't willing to say how much the charity spent buying food to top up supply but said it did happen.
She also welcomed donations of non-perishable food items.
- The Timaru Herald