Coronavirus: Foodbank demand soars during COVID-19 pandemic

Food parcel demand at the Wellington City Mission has gone up 400 percent .
Food parcel demand at the Wellington City Mission has gone up 400 percent . Photo credit: Facebook/ Wellington City Mission

New Zealand foodbanks are being put under pressure as demand for parcels soars during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Wellington City Mission has seen significant demand with an increase of 400 percent in the last seven days.

Murray Edridge, the Wellington City Missioner, says the sharp increase shows the financial pressure New Zealanders are under during the pandemic.

"In a week where we would on average distribute 80 food bags, since lockdown the last seven days has seen us distribute 329 food bags to people and families, with 80 percent being delivered by staff straight to people's doorsteps."

He says they are having to find ways to work around the added changes the lockdown has meant for their organisation.

"Considering we're without volunteers and have been unable to ask for food donations, a tremendous amount of effort has gone into ensuring we're still able to deliver our essential food bank and social work services.

"COVID-19 has been a test for us as an organisation, but as we've seen with the increase in demand over the last seven days, the test is nothing compared to what those in need who were already struggling are experiencing today."

Since the lockdown, staff have been helping in roles across The Mission that are normally filled by volunteers including positions in the food bank preparing food parcels for distribution by 1pm every day.

Since the organisation has been unable to receive food donations during the lockdown, they are asking people to instead make a monetary donation online from which they can purchase food in bulk from their supermarket chain suppliers. 

CEO of the Christchurch City Mission Matthew Mark says they have also been giving away more food parcels during the lockdown. 

"We have absolutely seen a significant increase in demand, where we are tending to be anything between 250 percent to 305 percent up on our normal on any given day."

CEO of the Christchurch City Mission Matthew Mark.
CEO of the Christchurch City Mission Matthew Mark. Photo credit: Supplied

He says every day approximately 30 percent of those they are helping have never been supported by the Mission before.

"The more elongated the lockdown is, I fear the more this will increase," he says.

"We know that the lockdown is necessary, and appears to be working to stemming the spread, however, we also need to be aware of the spread of other resultant factors also. 

"As businesses are closing their doors permanently resulting in increased unemployment, the reduction of hours and/or levels of pay and the changing dynamic of our environment."

The biggest challenge for the Mission is making sure they have enough people and stock to meet the growing need.

"Our historical channels of support have been by community donations to enable us to provide food parcels, however with the lockdown people can no longer drop goods to us and as such we are needing to purchase everything, adding additional pressure on us as an organisation."

At the Auckland City Mission the demand for food parcels has increased by over 100 percent as a result of COVID-19.