Demand for food parcel services skyrockets across Aotearoa

The country's largest not-for-profit food distribution service says a rapidly growing number of New Zealanders are now fearful about where their next meal is coming from.

The New Zealand Food Network (NZFN) supports 65 charities and its latest survey found the demand for food support last year was up 42 percent on the year before. It's also a whopping 83 percent increase from 2021.

Last year the organisation supported more than 630,000 people and of those, about a third never needed it before.

"We've had to relocate to a much bigger premise in order to feed that demand," said NZFN's chief executive Gavin Findlay.

NZFN's chief executive Gavin Findlay.
NZFN's chief executive Gavin Findlay. Photo credit: Newshub

The organisation's survey found rising cost of living is the main reason for the demand and food hubs are struggling to keep up.

Kiwi Community Assistance in Wellington is one of more than 60 food hubs that receive supplies from the network.

The head of the branch, Tracy Wellington, deals with the increasing demand for food - day and night 

"I get phone calls at 3:16am on the weekends asking for food. The stock comes in and it's gone within 24 hours if that."

But she's worried they won't have enough.

"Demand is outstripping what we actually have."

And it's a similar story on the West Coast of the South Island for Kai Puku, the region's first dedicated food rescue service.

"We're seeing a big demand from senior citizens," said Christine Barton, lead coordinator at Te Tai Poutini Kai Puku. "Families are struggling as well as people working."

The volume of food distributed by these hubs more than doubled in the last half of 2023, adding up to more than 6.5 million meals for vulnerable communities.

Infometrics chief executive Brad Olsen believes it's a reflection of the economic environment. 

"With rising inflation and interest rates there has been a group of New Zealanders needing to rely on those supports for the first time."

Olsen said people will be feeling the pinch for some time yet.

"Inflation is coming down but it's not coming down quickly enough."