So what exactly is a food bank?
Questions we are sometimes asked at the Citizens Advice Bureau Porirua are: what is a food bank? What will I get in a food parcel? How long will a parcel last?
It sounds like they are relatively simple questions to answer.
However, in Porirua we have more than one food bank. All are reliant on donations of food (and money) from the community (or funders).
Food parcels are not an entitlement, but are given at the discretion of a food bank when someone has an unexpected emergency; they are not available on an ongoing basis.
How much is provided will depend on the number of mouths to be fed and how long the emergency situation is likely to last.
The criteria used by each food bank in determining whether to provide a food parcel are slightly different.
One may prefer a letter from Work and Income showing that a client has been declined assistance, and another may only deliver within Porirua City.
Most supermarkets have a food box, where donations of food can be left. Those items will be used by recipient food banks to provide parcels to an individual or family.
In Porirua we are a generous community, with staple items of food being donated weekly.
All the food banks are deeply appreciative of people donating food. Food banks throughout the Wellington region hold food appeals during the year, usually on a Saturday.
A food parcel, more often than not, will not contain fresh vegetables or meat.
Sometimes a parcel may contain tinned fish (such as salmon), pasta or soup. Most food banks are able to provide bread, tinned food (such as spaghetti and baked beans), basic toiletries (such as toilet paper), cereal, bread and spreads (such as jam, Marmite).
When food banks question a client as to why they require a parcel, it is not to be nosy, but to establish what caused the emergency and help the individual or family.
Finding out when that person is next expecting to be paid (either benefit or wages) can also help to determine the size of the parcel.
Knowing what is happening for the client may enable the interviewer to provide additional assistance, such as referral to a budget service or possibly suggesting a client be helped by a benefit advocate.
Our bureau has information relating to food banks, budget services and PowerSwitch ( to check different options around power companies).
Citizens Advice Bureau Porirua, level 2, Pember House, 16 Hagley St, Monday till Friday, 9am till 4.30pm.
Phone 04 2378846 or free phone 0800 367222, go to cab.org.nz or you can simply email firstname.lastname@example.org.