HUNDREDS of solo parents, working families, elderly and homeless have turned to the Salvation Army for help this year, depleting the charity's foodbank.
This year alone the Rotorua Salvation Army foodbank has helped more than 700 individuals and families with nearly 1000 food parcels.
But it is running out of food, and is relying on donations week to week.
The Rotorua Daily Post today launches its annual Christmas Appeal with a $1000 donation to the Salvation Army Foodbank.
From now until December 22, the Rotorua Daily Post, in conjunction with the Rotorua Weekender and The Hits 97.5FM, is seeking non-perishable food donations to help the foodbank continue its good work throughout the Christmas period and into 2018.
Following its success last year, there will again be a Fill The Bus day on December 6, with Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Reesby's donating the use of a bus for the day.
The bus will travel around the city so locals can fill it with canned goods.
The appeal last year raised $55,562.10 in food and cash donations, as schools, workplaces and community groups rallied behind the cause.
Rotorua Salvation Army officer Kylie Overbye said this year had been a year of struggles for many local families.
"We have had to buy some stuff to keep our coffers stocked up. This year, to better meet the needs of our community, we've been doing bigger food parcels that cover longer periods of time.
"Around 80 per cent of the people who come to us are looking for food welfare but, for 54 per cent of those people, their main underlying issue is financial.
"Other underlying issues are abuse, addiction and re-establishment."
Salvation Army Rotorua social support worker Susan King said the organisation had also noticed a rise in the elderly asking for help.
"A lot of these seniors coming in are doing so because they have their children or grandchildren back living with them.
"It's not just low-income families asking for help - it's working-class families who, as the cost of living keeps going up, are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet," King said.
"We are seeing a pick-up in people coming to us for help even before December hits.
"It's been a challenging year for many people and it's not often Christmas is a celebratory time for these families."
The Salvation Army has a goal to provide 200 families with Christmas hampers this year - 70 more than last year - and needs the community's help.
"The hampers are filled with pantry basics as well as extra goodies like chickens, veges, ham, eggs, dairy products, sanitary products and toys.
"From last year's appeal we know what a wonderfully generous community we have and we hope we can again deliver these hampers to the families who need them most," she said.
"Christmas can be a really lonely time for a lot of people.
"Our heart and passion lies in wanting to help people and make this time a little easier for them."
Rotorua police have come on board this year to help fill the Christmas hampers.
Constable Marc van Krieken said police recognised Christmas was a stressful time of year for many families.
"We wanted to come on board with donating and delivering the hampers in the hope that we can help reduce those stress levels.
"We wanted to reach more families, get more donations and help more people have a fun and happy holiday period."
Love Soup Rotorua co-founder Gina Peiffer said her organisation dealt with many of the same struggling families on a daily basis.
"The Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul has been inundated with demand for food parcels. The demand is great year round, but at Christmas time it gets even harder.
"It may be summer and it may be the holidays but it's no easier for our families.
"It's a time of dread, anxiety and depression. Rather than wondering how they're going to celebrate with their families, they're wondering how they're going to feed their families.
"Many of these families would be happy with just a bottle of milk and loaf of bread, they're living day to day."
NZME regional editor Scott Inglis said the Rotorua Daily Post, with support from The Hits 97.5FM, was pleased to again be helping the Salvation Army.
"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 food and raise money to help feed people in need. It's so easy to help - all we need is a can of food."
How to donate:
Non-perishable goods can be dropped off at:
Rotorua Daily Post - 1143 Hinemoa St, Rotorua
Salvation Army Community Ministries - 1188 Amohia St, Rotorua
Salvation Army Corps - 271 Old Taupo Rd
Monetary donations can be made to the Salvation Army Rotorua Corps bank account: 020 4160 024233 00