COVID-19: Charities urge businesses to donate food amid skyrocketing need during lockdown

Four days into COVID-19 alert level 4, emergency food providers say demand for the essentials is setting off alarm bells.

With restrictions extended, hospitality businesses are being asked to donate any food that would otherwise go to waste.

Packing up food boxes while most of the country hunkers down at home, volunteers at the Auckland City Mission are picking up pace. 

They're getting food parcels out to families in desperate need who have been hit hard by alert level 4.

"Here on Friday, our numbers doubled what a normal Friday would be," Auckland City Missioner Helen Robinson said.

With lockdown widely tipped to be extended, the Mission is preparing to be even busier - a normal week sees 900 food packs made up; they're now planning for more than 1500.

"One of my deepest concerns this morning, actually, is if we're going to be in this for two, three, four, five, six weeks, how are we going to meet the level of demand that we're anticipating?" Robinson said.

The city's homeless population needs urgent support too.

Teams from the Mission will be out on the streets every day this lockdown, making sure rough sleepers have access to food, medical care and even a COVID-19 vaccine if they have one. 

At the New Zealand Food Network's warehouse, the shelves have been stripped this week.

"More and more families may find themselves in a position where they need help," said CEO Gavin Findlay.

The organisation helps distribute food to charities and food banks, and are calling on businesses to donate any surplus stock so it doesn't go to waste. 

"Where it can be possible, let's not throw that food away and we can help with that where we can," Findlay said.

They're sending it to places like Dunedin, where frontline services are adjusting to the lockdown load. 

"One of our agencies normally feeds around 40 families and they got inundated with phone calls on the Tuesday night and Wednesday," says KiwiHarvest Dunedin's Susie Townshend.

And they're bracing for the phone line to keep running hot.