In just two months (September and October 2021), Visionwest’s Pātaka Kai processed, packed, and delivered 8,684 food parcels, feeding 11,517 adults and 10,593 children – a total of 22,110 people.
This is an amazing output when compared with 1,424 parcels for the same period last year, feeding approximately 2,690 people in total – 1,530 adults and 1,160 children
This COVID event so far:
Since August 18, when this current COVID lockdown period began, through to November 30, 2021, the Pātaka Kia has given away, 13,719 food parcels.
An unprecedented demand
The demand for food during this latest COVID event is unprecedented. While recent years has seen a slow increase in the number of whānau accessing the Pātaka Kai, this latest jump in numbers represents a 600 percent increase for the months of September and October. This can be directly attributed to the financial pressures caused by COVID and the subsequent containment measures.
The new need
When Visionwest releases figures like those above on social media or media sites, it often results in immediate questioning, the most common being, “How can this be?” and “Who are these people who need food?”
The answer to the first question is self-evident. With the closing of many workplaces during lockdown, a large number of whānau, often already living payday to payday, have found themselves struggling to pay for even basic items.
The answer to the second question is a little more sobering; “Who are these people who need food?” The simple reality is, it’s people in your street. It’s people in our communities. It’s people who have often never before accessed any sort of social support service and are embarrassed to find themselves in the unfamiliar situation of needing to ask for help.
For instance, the couple with three high-school aged children. Both husband and wife work and were managing well financially, including paying off their mortgage, until lockdown came. The husband’s plumbing business had to cease operating meaning no income for almost ten weeks. The wife’s employer applied for the wage subsidy, but it meant the wife received only a portion of her usual income. In all, the family’s income dropped to about 25% of what it was before lockdown and, for the first time in their lives, they were forced to access a foodbank – the team at Visionwest Pātaka Kia was pleased to help.
This couple’s experience is not unusual during recent COVID events. Of those who managed to navigate their way through the March 2020 lockdown, many are now facing tough times having spent their savings or taken our loans to help save properties or businesses.
71% of those accessing Visionwest’s Pātaka Kai during this lockdown event cite financial hardship or low income as their primary reason. Amongst other reasons given are the inability to access supermarkets (7%) and the need to self-isolate (4%)
COVID has taught us all how financially fragile many whānau are, and how even the most unlikely family, friends or neighbours may be struggling.
The ongoing effect
As businesses slowly reopen and people return to work, the demand doesn’t immediately disappear. As mentioned, many whānau have borrowed money, others are in arrears with their rent, mortgage, or utility payments. For reasons like these, the demand for food support remains high. But it’s not just food that people need help with.
At Visionwest, the demand for our Money Mentors service is high as people seek financial advice regarding their debt levels and how best to manage their money. Last year, Money Mentors saved client whānau $97,000 in debt. We hope that this year we can save even more – we know the need is certainly there.
Demand is significantly higher at Visionwest Wellbeing Centre also. Many people, including children and young people, have found the constant threat and publicised effects of COVID to be challenging to their mental health and wellbeing. Our counsellors are working with those who need support at this time (under current COVID protocols, sessions have been held online). We expect this demand to continue for some time.
The demand for food support is an anecdotal indicator of the financial climate of a community and indicates that whānau throughout Aotearoa New Zealand (especially Auckland) are still struggling and that the effects of COVID will be felt for some time.
During this “getting back on our feet” stage, Visionwest expects the demand for support services to be high and we are gearing up for a Christmas rush and high demands heading into the new year.
We are also about to launch Christmas From The Heart, our Christmas food and gift parcel event. Last year, we gave away 1,200 parcels in five days. This year’s event runs for eight days, and we expect the demand to be higher than ever before.
Visit www.visionwest.org.nz/christmas to find out more