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Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

More families relying on food parcels to survive Christmas period

Generous Kiwis have dug deep for victims of the Kaikoura earthquake, but thousands of families nationwide are now set to rely on the kindness of strangers over the festive season.

The Salvation Army is launching an urgent Christmas appeal today as demand for food parcels is expeced to soar.

The Salvation Army's Christchurch warehouse has been cleaned out with food going to Kaikoura and other quake affected areas and now has the added pressure of replenishing stocks in time for Christmas.

It predicts about 5.6 per cent, or almost 1000 more food parcels, will be needed for the last quarter of 2016 compared to the same time last year.

This brings the number of food parcels needed during October to December to 15,458 for 11,336 families.

The estimates have been calculated based on trends from the past three Christmases and this first nine months of 2016.

Salvation Army head of social services major Pam Waugh said the aim of the appeal was to give hope and help the growing number of families were feeling the strain.

"We've got such an impact on housing at the moment and rising housing costs - that is a big impact on the families we work with at the moment."

Waugh said often all families needed was an unexpected bill for the car or doctors and suddenly there was no money for food.

A food parcel could free up about $70 for a family, she said.

"Some of the families we see have done really well as year and will just be here at Christmas time when they need extra help.

"Other families have had ongoing support all year and this is one way can support them to get through the Christmas season without getting into further debt or an impact on their budget for the new year when they head back to school and all those different things going on."

Pam Waugh, head of social services at The Salvation Army, says the number of families needing food parcels during the Christmas period continues to grow. Photo / Supplied
Pam Waugh, head of social services at The Salvation Army, says the number of families needing food parcels during the Christmas period continues to grow. Photo / Supplied

It was not just beneficiaries under pressure, but the "working poor" also needed assistance especially if they had a reduction in working hours or were on seasonal or shift work.

Already this year the Salvation Army has handed out 55,000 food parcels to 28,000 families nationally and 26,000 food parcels have been given to 13,000 families in Auckland and Northland alone.

The biggest increase for hand-outs was in New Lynn, with a 64 per cent rise in the number of people wanting food parcels in the year-ended 31 September 2016 compared to the previous year.

Other more surprising areas where demand had increased substantially was the Hibiscus Coast and Pukekohe, Waugh said.

Waugh said everyday staples such as bread, canned food, flour, fruit and lunchbox snacks such as muesli bars, cleaning products, nappies and baby food were always needed.

"We acknowledge that the New Zealand pubic and some support that we get is just vital and we are really grateful."

Mangere Budgeting Services Trust had been inundated with demand for its food parcels with unprecedented 182 people asking to be on the Christmas hamper list.

The food bank is now the trust's most in-demand service, despite only launching the service three years ago.

Chief executive Darryl Evans blamed rising rents for people not being able to buy groceries.

"As people try and keep roofs over their heads, food is the last priority. Because you buy as much food as you can depending on what is left over. And what people are telling us is there is certainly not enough left over."

The trust has also seen an increase in the number of pensioners needing food parcels in the past year.

Auckland City missioner Chris Farrelly said demand for food parcels for families served by the city mission had increased by a 25 per cent in the year-ended June 2016 compared to the previous year and the need was always much greater in December.

"What we are discovering for a lot of families now - these are no longer emergency one-offs, these are required more and more frequently to sustain themselves.

"The issue of poverty is growing in our community."

As of Saturday, $850,000 has been raised for the Red Cross November 2016 earthquake appeal.

How many food parcels the Salvation Army provides:

Q4 2013 - 13,236
Q4 2014 - 13,918
Q4 2015 - 14,668
Q4 2016 - 15,458*
*predicted number based on previous years

How to donate to the Salvation Army Christmas Appeal:
Call 0800 530 000 or visit www.salvationarmy.org.nz

- NZ Herald

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