Ap­peal for food gifts

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By LAU­REN PRI­EST­LEY

THE de­mand for food from Auck­lan­ders in need has reached a ‘‘ new nor­mal’’, Sal­va­tion Army of­fi­cers say.

And it is only get­ting worse as fam­i­lies head into the hard­est part of the year.

Royal Oak Com­mu­nity Min­istries man­ager Megan Dan­gen says Christ­mas is a ‘‘pres­sure point’’ for those strug­gling to make ends meet.

She is call­ing for com­mu­nity mem­bers and busi­nesses to give their neigh­bours a help­ing hand this fes­tive sea­son by donat­ing food.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion does a largescale Christ­mas ap­peal and hands out 400 food ham­pers and 900 gift parcels. But there are still peo­ple turn­ing up for food ev­ery day, she says.

‘‘It does leave fam­i­lies in a tough sit­u­a­tion.

‘‘They’re al­ready fi­nan­cially un­der the pump, be­cause they’re ben­e­fi­cia­ries or low-in­come earn­ers.

‘‘We could dou­ble, triple or even quadru­ple the num­ber, but for us it’s a lot. ‘‘There’s a huge need. ‘‘There has to be a limit where you say: ‘That’s the num­ber we can do’.’’

The Royal Oak team helps peo­ple in the area stretch­ing from Hills­bor­ough to the city-fringe, Dan­gen says.

It dis­trib­utes hun­dreds of food parcels ev­ery month, adding up to about 5000 an­nu­ally.

This year they have seen a steady rise in needy fam­i­lies, she says.

‘‘There are tough times through­out the year where we strug­gle for items to put in the parcels.

‘‘About a month ago we were re­ally low in food. We al­ways need more food.’’

De­mand in East Auck­land is just as high. The Pan­mure Sal­va­tion Army ran out of its week’s worth of food parcels in just two days ear­lier this month.

Store man­ager Gary Dav­i­son says in­flat­ing rents, a lack of hous­ing and loan sharks are all part of the prob­lem. The cost of gifts, travel and child­care are then piled on top, he says.

The Sal­va­tion Army also of­fers bud­get­ing and com­mu­nity ser­vices to give fam­i­lies a hand up, in­stead of just a hand out, Dav­i­son says.

‘‘We’ve been up­ping them for the hol­i­days, but we’ve just hit a new nor­mal, I guess.

‘‘Our idea is to kill our­selves off, so we’re not re­quired. But un­for­tu­nately the need is grow­ing, so we’re grow­ing.’’

The Auck­land City branch of the or­gan­i­sa­tion re­lo­cated to Mt Wellington in July, after more than 130 years in the cen­tral city.

There is another food bank op­er­at­ing out of the new site and plans are in the works to open a not­for-profit early learn­ing cen­tre there in 2015.

It is about help­ing fam­i­lies with more than just a lack of food, ma­jor Al­lan Bate­man says.

‘‘We’re con­stantly see­ing peo­ple pay­ing power, rent, wa­ter, there’s all the ‘ have-tos’ but food is the last thing left.’’

Pres­sure point: Megan Dan­gen says Christ­mas is not al­ways a happy time of the year for strug­gling fam­i­lies.

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