Demand still strong for food help

By Genevieve Helliwell

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Meeting a child who had never seen a potato is among the interesting experiences former city councillor Mike Baker has come across in his year as chairman of the Tauranga Community Foodbank.

"I gave mum and dad a bag of potatoes. The child said 'what's that, potatoes don't look like that, they come in long thin fries'."

The retired financier said every now and then something really surprised him at the foodbank, leaving him wondering what type of food children were eating.

"There are some people out there who have money but make poor choices but I think the majority [of foodbank clients] are trying really hard to not to be reliant on the foodbank and handouts."

The charitable organisation has been operating for 21 years in Tauranga and in that time, demand has increased.

Last year 8300 food parcels were given to families, solo parents and single adults. This year about 160 food parcels are handed out each week.

About 45 volunteers help keep the foodbank operating.

Mr Baker took on the chairman's role in August last year, shortly before the launch of the inaugural Bay of Plenty Times Christmas Appeal, which raised $53,000 for the foodbank.

Mr Baker said the foodbank gained immense benefit from the campaign and was now in "a reasonably good financial position", but that could change.

The campaign raised awareness of the role of the Foodbank in the community, he said.

"But as well ... it raised enough money and food that would take us all the way through January, February, March and into April. So for the first three to four months of the year, we knew we had enough food and resources to get by."

Mr Baker said it was humbling to be in a position allowing him to help others at a vulnerable time in their lives.

"These are people who have got nothing. No money, no food, and some can't even afford a bus home.

"When you wake up in the morning hungry, and you go to bed hungry, it can't be good for your mind, body and soul ... so it's good being able to help and offer them a helping hand."

The foodbank needs about $45,000 a year to cover operating costs.

Thanks to last year's Christmas appeal, which generated about 35,000 cans, the foodbank only spent about $60,000 on food, about $30,000 less than the previous year.

Mr Baker said there was an increasing number of solo parents turning to Foodbank for support and volunteers were calling for donations of personal-care items and baby items, including nappies.

He thanked all those who had donated to foodbank and encouraged others to drop in a can or two if they passed by the Tauranga, Katikati or Te Puke foodbanks.

"Even if it's only one can, it's one more than we would have had before so we would love it if people could find it in their hearts to donate a little bit ... if they can't perhaps they could think of us during the year."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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