It has been a stressful year for hundreds of cash-strapped families forced to seek help from the Tauranga Community Foodbank.
The Bay of Plenty Times today launches its 2012 Christmas Appeal and, in the next six weeks, will be seeking donations of food items and cash so the Foodbank can continue its charity work during the festive season and into next year.
Last year's appeal resulted in more than $53,000 worth of food and cash being donated to the Foodbank after individuals, families, businesses, community groups and schools gave generously. Street collections were also held.
Port of Tauranga, Mount Maunganui RSA and the Rotary Club of Tauranga were among those that made large donations.
Traditionally, regular donations dropped around Christmas when usual donors were on holiday, while the number of families needing help increased.
Recognising this need, the Bay of Plenty Times has again decided to help the Foodbank and launched this year's appeal with a $1000 donation, and invites other Bay businesses to contribute what they can.
Editor Scott Inglis said the Bay of Plenty Times was pleased to be supporting the Foodbank.
"They do such a great job and help so many people and families who need it. We look forward to working with the community to collect plenty of food and raise plenty of money to help feed people in need. It's so easy to help - all we need is a can of food."
The appeal couldn't have come at a better time for the organisation heading into its busiest time of the year.
Foodbank chairman Mike Baker said he appreciated the support of the Bay of Plenty Times last year and was "absolutely delighted" his organisation was chosen again.
"As well as helping to raise awareness of what we do, the appeal clearly touches the hearts of generous people in the community who obviously come to realise that there are people out there more vulnerable than themselves," Mr Baker said.
He said community support last year was "just unbelievable".
Last year, 8300 food parcels were handed out and, this year, an average of 160 parcels were issued each week.
Mr Baker said 636 parcels were issued to 660 adults and 980 children last month, and most were handed out to single-parent families.
But he said demand soared to about 200-220 parcels a week in the four weeks leading up to Christmas.
Larger families were struggling too and food parcels needed to contain sufficient food to feed more mouths.
Demand was such that the Foodbank had to introduce strict rules last year to ensure only the most needy received food parcels, he said.
The campaign asks people to give a can of food, or any other item, preferably non-perishable, to the Foodbank between now and Christmas.
Money was also welcomed, as the Foodbank had to buy items not donated.
Mr Baker said there was always huge demand for personal care products, such as toilet paper, shampoo, deodorants and baby products, including disposable nappies.
Each month, the Foodbank spent between $5000 and $7000 buying essential items, while some of the donated cash helped cover overheads.
Mr Baker said the Foodbank's top priority was to ensure vulnerable children did not go hungry.