The demand for foodbanks, food parcels and hardship grants has escalated around the country with councils, Government agencies and community groups, including the Salvation Army and Nourished for Nil, committed to ensuring people get their essential needs met.

Nourished for Nil (NFN) has seen a significant increase in the number queuing outside its Hasting distribution centre and is under no illusion that those lines are only going to get longer.

They’re stretching around the block, not only because of the two metre social distancing but the increased pressure families are facing under lock down with many facing an uncertain future.

While there have been no “incidents” and people have been patient, believing the Government is doing the right thing, NFN founder Christina McBeth is concerned for those who’ve lost jobs and have limited savings.

She says the pressure will increase over the next month along with the demand for foodbanks and services like NFN.  “While everyone’s pulling their heads in right now there’s only a certain amount of time they can do this before some will say, ‘I’ve had enough’.”

A new Salvation Army (Te Ope Whakaora) Covid-19 Social Impact report predicts serious financial hardship ahead as people run out of their savings, claiming the demand for foodbanks has jumped by a third, with Work and Income hardship grants doubling to more than 12,000.

The Salvation Army has launched a new free text service for people in need of welfare support — call 4114 plus your name and postcode, and a representative will call back within 48 hours to complete a food assessment.

Christina McBeth says there’s been strong support for food rescue and foodbanks from local manufacturers and processing companies and fruit and vegetable growers. She is confident “if they see the need beyond the quantities we’re getting we could request more”.

Nourished for Nil has been getting bins of lettuce, apples, pears. “One local grower gives us everything he would normally be selling in his shop right now broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes…”

Typically NFN runs three teams and operates in Hastings and the Napier outlet (which only opened in March and has now closed). It’s reduced to two teams working in shifts at the Hastings distribution centre, which is open Monday to Fridays with Tuesday’s set aside for urgent deliveries.

They place food items into cardboard boxes so the needy can select and place items in their own bags ensuring distancing restrictions and adhered to.

In Napier, the Te Taiwhenua o Te Whanganui-a-Orotūwhich is already making about 200 deliveries a day within the Maori community, with a fleet of about seven vehicles is handling and food parcels for that area.

Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management (HBCDEM) is co-ordinating a welfare ‘safety net’, connecting networks of community providers to assist those most impacted by the pandemic, including the homeless and hungry.

Co-ordinator Ian Macdonald said those in need of temporary accommodation and hardship payments had mostly been dealt with by MBIE and MSD … including freedom campers, some of them transients, being supported in this way.

Working with the homeless or those of no fixed abode has however proved challenging. “If you move people on they just move somewhere else so that’s defeating the purpose.”

HBCDEM was trying to work with people where they are, “making sure they don’t cause any issues”. About 40 had been moved to Kennedy Park and Hastings Top 10 holiday parks.

Napier City is supporting the Outreach Service (run by the Whatever It Takes Trust) to provide clothing, bedding and lunch packs on a daily basis. The service is also coordinating emergency housing for those who wish to access it.

“We are in close liaison regarding rough sleepers and those who may become homeless during the lockdown period,” says mayor Wise.

The Central Hawke’s Bay District Council is also working through HBCDEM to respond to welfare, and deploying its local network of networks through community organisations such as Safer Central Hawke’s Bay, Red Cross.

Nourished for Nil, was formed in 2017 by Christina McBeth and Louise Saurin to redistribute food to needy Hawke’s Bay people that would otherwise end up in the waste bins and landfill.

Despite the increased demand NFN has more than enough food items. “At the start a lot of businesses had to close and had surplus they couldn’t sell. Now a lot of what we’re getting, especially from supermarkets is an oversupply.”

She says it’s been difficult for supermarket chains in particular to gauge purchase and supply patterns which have been skewed by panic buying and people buying larger amounts on a weekly basis.

“We’re getting a good supply of bread, meat, grocery items and even chocolates which means our food parcels are awesome.”

McBeth says people are recognising their situations are changing and they’re doing what they can now to save money.

“It’s hard to tell how big the families are as there’s only one person allowed and we’re allowing some to take three parcels when they say they’re shopping for other families.”

That’s something that NFN wouldn’t allow previously but it’s operating on trust in the new environment as some families may not be able to shop for themselves.

She says there’s a great relief on their faces that we’re providing this service without having to fill out forms or being judged. “We’re a smiling face on the other end of the parcel.”

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