‘Regrettable’ demand for Auckland City Mission food parcels

By Jessica Tyson

Te Tāpui Atawhai, Auckland City Mission has reported a “regrettable” record of food parcels distibuted to Aucklanders in need.

With the level four lockdown continuing in Auckland, the Mission, with its partners, has distributed more than 6000 food parcels to Aucklanders needing support. That is equal to 2000 per week, which is a new record outside of the Christmas rush.

Missioner Helen Robinson says Covid-19 is once again highlighting the increasing incidence of food insecurity and its long-reaching effects in our country.

"The demand is even greater than the previous lockdowns. People who have not fully recovered from the last lockdown had just been coping. This latest level four change has left many more people no option than to request support such as a food parcel so they can put food on the table.”

Low wages and high living costs causes of food insecurity in Auckland

A recent study has looked into the realities and aspirations of people experiencing food insecurity in Auckland. As part of the study, more than 600 people who have gone to the Mission seeking food support were interviewed.

The key finding was that people do not have adequate income to meet their basic needs because of societal issues such as low wages and benefits, combined with high living costs.

“Each of those people has a background, a story, that has led them to needing the Mission’s support. Over the years, we became conscious that those stories are often not heard or understood. We also became aware that there was no collective data highlighting the reasons that people experience food insecurity. So we began to research the subject,” says Robinson.

The data also identified that people experiencing food insecurity have the same aspirations as other New Zealanders.

“The people we interviewed aspire to have appropriate and fulfilling employment, they want financial security and to secure a good life for their whānau – all of the things we all desire, she says.

“But the reality is it’s beyond the reach of those we interviewed. It’s not, for example, simply a case of ‘go out and get a job’ if you’re unable to afford child-care or have to incur travel expenses yet don’t have the spare cash to get to your job.”

Need for reforms

The work highlights the need for reforms to enhance food security in Aotearoa, including the lifting of benefits and implementing the living wage.

“The Mission will continue to advocate for an equitable Aotearoa,” says Robinson.

“At the same time, we will always support people in their time of need - during each Covid-19 lockdown and at any other time. That includes distributing food so that people can feed their families nutritious meals in times when that would otherwise not be possible. Ours needs to be a society where everyone can fulfill their dreams and aspirations.”

Although Robinson says the spike in demand for food parcels is challenging for the Mission, the team is committed to providing that vital support needed.

She says the Ministry of Social Development has provided funding towards food parcels at this time, while generous groups and individuals are also showing their support.