Coronavirus: Māngere-based charity calls for financial aid as demand for food parcels grows

A Māngere-based social service is calling for financial assistance as demand for food packages continues to grow exponentially during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Māngere Budgeting Services Trust is battling bare shelves as an increasing number of people knock on their doors for food. Many New Zealanders are facing financial difficulty as the Alert Level 4 lockdown ensures the closure of non-essential businesses, leaving many without a steady income for life's essentials.

CEO Darryl Evans says Māngere Budgeting Services needs financial support if it's going to continue its work.

The organisation would normally hand out 35 food parcels per day across its three centres, he says. On Tuesday, 89 packages were given out of their Māngere office alone. 

"Organisations of our size are not particularly well-funded, as an example our food bank has never received Government funding and it's incredibly difficult when life happens," Evans told The AM Show on Wednesday morning.

"Demand grows exponentially as it is now, so we're putting our hand up and saying 'we need some help'."

Evans says the Māngere office was once frequently visited by Labour MPs. During the COVID-19 crisis, there has been no sign of Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni or local MP William Sio. 

"I have seen Carmel [Sepuloni], not in this current term, but when they were in Opposition I saw quite a bit of Labour. I guess they're incredibly busy and trying to deal with COVID-19, so no, we haven't seen anybody of late," Evans said.

"I've been working with a Minister of Social Development bureaucrat down in Wellington, he's been particularly helpful. I was advised yesterday that we will receive a small pot of funding that will see us through the next 14 days - that money has yet to arrive."

But Evans is hopeful that funding will be expanded to ensure their stability during this uncertain time.

"We're grateful for that, but of course that's only a two-week period. I'm hoping we can have further conversations to get support longer-term. It's not going away in two weeks. 

"I really don't like talking about money but, for example, we do get some money for our Māngere office and our Ōtara office. We've never received funding for Tuakau, and north Waikato is a growing area for us."

Evans says demand is so high, the charity is now receiving calls from "all over the country". 

"We're getting more calls - not only from Māngere and South Auckland, but calls from Wanganui, Hastings.

"People just don't know where to go to for help."

He advises New Zealanders to call their freephone budgeting helpline, 0508 22 22 83, to be referred to an appropriate social service.

"We do need more money... we need to start stacking our shelves because they're running out quickly."

Māngere Budgeting Services Trust, or Budgeting and Family Support Services, operates three centres out of Māngere, Ōtara and Tuakau.