Families struggle to pay for food
Stocking the pantry with basic food items such as meat, cheese and bread used to be taken for granted.
But now the weekly grocery shop is putting a strain on the pocket.
Food costs have risen 8.2 percent in the past year.
Dairy in particular has skyrocketed with butter up more than 80 percent, and cheese up by almost 62 percent on last year.
Many families are now turning to social services to keep their heads above water, and food banks are struggling to meet demand.
The Auckland City Mission reports a 50 percent increase in customers requiring food parcels, while the Salvation Army says demand is up by 20 percent.
Royal Oak Salvation Army community ministry manager Caryn Daly says the food price hike has hit families hard.
“People are really struggling and it’s not just the people who were struggling before,” she says.
“We are all living it, so we need to sympathise and empathise and help people as much as we can.”
The highest food price increases since June 1990 have prompted more people on middle incomes to turn to the Salvation Army for help.
“When there’s not much left in the budget each week, it just takes something like a large power bill to throw things out quite quickly,” Mrs Daly says.
“Then there is no money left for food and people need help.”
The Royal Oak foodbank is open to people who have used up other entitlements from Work and Income or who are facing an emergency.
A parcel of items such as pasta, rice, bread, tinned food, eggs and drink is available.
Mrs Daly says there’s usually a surplus of food at this time of year, but she fears if the price rises continue there will not be enough.
City missioner Diane Robertson says it’s vital for people to take action before they can no longer afford food.
“Don’t leave it until you have missed your payments, it is so much easier to get help before that happens,” she says.
Presbyterian Support budgeting service manager Maureen Little agrees the most important thing is to ask for help before it is too late.
“Foods like milk and bread are not really luxury items, they are things you have to be able to pay for,” she says.
Ms Little says careful planning is the first step towards coping with rising food costs.
She advises people to write a shopping list and plan out a menu for the week, buying only the items on the list.
Looking at catalogues and shopping around for the best deals on fruit and vegetables will also help.
People need to learn how to cook from scratch instead of using expensive pre-packaged meals and ingredients.
But without a strong household budget saving money on food will have little effect, says New Zealand federation of family budgeting services manager Raewyn Fox.
“You have to write everything down, be really honest and figure out how much money you have to live on,” she says.
“Make sacrifices where you have to. People really do need to prioritise feeding their children.”
The Salvation Army in Royal Oak regularly runs a Living Today cooking course.
The eight-week course covers cooking on a budget, winter meals and easy healthy food.
For more information, phone 625-7940.
What’s your tip for stretching the food budget further? Email edcl@snl. co.nz.
Helping out: Salvation Army Royal Oak community ministry manager Caryn Daly has noticed more people needing the foodbank in the wake of rising food prices.