Wake up and smell the breadline

By Cherie Taylor -
HAND UP: Masterton Foodbank co-ordinator Maureen Potts says the skills of basic cooking aren't being passed on to the next generation. PHOTO/LYNDA FERINGA
HAND UP: Masterton Foodbank co-ordinator Maureen Potts says the skills of basic cooking aren't being passed on to the next generation. PHOTO/LYNDA FERINGA

Living on instant noodles? Learn how to cook.

Getting back to basics and learning how to cook cheap meals will help many people experiencing hardship, a local foodbank operator says.

Masterton Foodbank co-ordinator Maureen Potts says many people no longer know how to make a meal from basics like a can of sweetcorn or bag of potatoes.

In the last three months of 2013, the foodbank provided 521 food parcels - up nearly 100 on the same period the previous year.

Masterton Work and Income also approved 2090 hardship assistance grants of $560,903.09 including 847 totalling $91,960.80 for food.

"That's just incredible. I can't believe that," Mrs Potts said.

Wairarapa Advocacy Service has also given out a number of food parcels and say people are living on instant noodles most days because that is all they can afford.

Food parcels are not never-ending. People could only receive three self-referred food parcels before they were sent to a budget adviser or Super Grans for help, Mrs Potts said.

They also provide leaflets about agencies who assist with drug and alcohol problems and family counselling.

"There is hardship out there. We have had a lot of regular people coming for help. We already have a list of people who have had three parcels. I don't know how they are going to get on."

The agency spent $6000 buying food to supplement that given by the community in the November food drive.

"It won't be long and we will be out of food."

The constant rising cost of food coupled with the loss of basic cooking skills, which weren't being passed down, had resulted in a reliant generation, she said.

While buying packs of fish and chips might seem affordable, taking a bit of time people can make a meal from very little, like corn and potato fritters or pasta dishes, she advises.

"Those skills are being lost ... we are trying to give people a hand up not a hand out. Some don't even know basic cooking skills.

"We need to teach people to grow a garden. Everyone gets into strife and hardship but if you have just a few basics in the larder you will be able to get through."

However, you could lead a horse to water but you couldn't force it to drink, Mrs Potts said.

"Super Grans offered cooking classes but no one turned up ... you feel like you are beating your head against a brick wall when that happens."

People needed to watch their spending if struggling, she said.

"You have got to pay the constants, rent, power and food ... if you can't afford it you shouldn't have it ... It will always be tight for some people.

"Fast food has made it easy for people but it doesn't benefit them. You have full-time working mums today and they don't have the time to go home and cook a meal but there are ways around it."

Wairarapa Advocacy Service co-ordinator Trevor MacKiewicz said he wasn't surprised to hear so many people needed support to put food on the table as their client base had risen from about 100 in July to more than 600 today.

The trust has dipped into funds to buy food for those not entitled to hardships grants from Work and Income or food parcels from the foodbank.

People couldn't afford meat more than once or twice a week and lived on things like instant noodles, bread and eggs most days, he said.

"They are really struggling. We can't turn them away when they need food to feed their family. They are rationing their food to last."

They weren't just beneficiaries either, Mr MacKiewicz said.

He says the government needs to increase wages and benefits to a "liveable wage".

"Look at the price of food. Honey is going up from $14 to $20; even the basics costs an arm and a leg to buy ... they can't afford even the basics. Everything goes up except wages and benefits."

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