A Papamoa mum being helped by the Tauranga Community Foodbank is urging others in need to drop their guard and pride and ask for help.
The woman, who only wanted to be referred to as "Annie", received her first food parcel around Christmas last year.
Her partner of 16 years and the father of her two daughters had left and she was struggling to make ends meet.
The 43-year-old said she thought she could do it on her own without any help, but only made it 10 weeks before she had to approach Work and Income.
"The last year or two have been the hardest years of my life," Annie said.
She was living a comfortable life, working as a beauty therapist from home.
Annie said she worked, travelled, always had savings and never had anything handed to her on a plate.
But when her partner left, bills started accumulating and her debts started rising.
Even with the benefit payments, some months she had to choose - tampons or bread and milk.
"It got to that point and of course I'd choose the bread and milk."
Annie said her 10 and 14-year-old daughters play a lot of sport and train every day and so needed to eat nutritious, wholesome food.
There were also extra costs like school bus fares to pay for.
After receiving her second foodbank parcel, she went to get budgeting advice from Papamoa Family Services.
That was not easy for her.
"At first it was quite embarrassing and I didn't really want to go, but now I just walk there and I don't have an issue at all."
Annie said it took a lot of courage but it was worth it.
"I don't know what I would have done without them and I think people should drop their guard and their pride and really call out for the help if they do need it."
She still gets parcels from the foodbank whenever she falls behind.
Annie said she is often about $80-$90 short a week and is still in debt.
That is something she is working on with Kathy Young, her financial mentor at Papamoa Family Services.
The food parcels "help immensely" and take a lot of pressure off, Annie said.
She said if she did not have those as a backup, she would be beside herself.
Young said when people faced financial difficulty there was usually only one flexible thing in the budget and that was food.
"If you ever do a budget for anyone, when you ask them how much they spend on food, the answer nine times out of 10 is 'whatever's left'."
She said most people were able to shuffle things around and work from a basic budget but then they might have to pay extra on a power bill, go to the doctors, pay for a school trip, or for car repairs.
Young said dealing with those unexpected and unaffordable costs often resulted in a feeling of hopelessness and that was why the Tauranga Community Foodbank's contribution was so vital.
"It is really necessary because some of these people would not be eating at all without it. They just cannot survive."
The foodbank drops off food parcels once a week at Papamoa Family Services.
Young said financial difficulties often arose for families when someone lost a job - through illness or redundancy - and so the income coming in suddenly dropped.
"Even if they're still on wages. We're getting more and more people on wages coming in, but their hours are dropping and so, therefore, they can't afford to live.
"For them to actually feed a family just the real basics, the foodbank is an absolute necessity."
Young said Annie was a resourceful person who was always trying to help her family and so asking for help was quite a difficult thing for her to do.
The foodbank parcels were making a huge difference for Annie, she said.
"It gives her a sense of relief from the point of view that that's something she doesn't need to stress about."
Foodbank manager Nicki Goodwin said Papamoa Family Services did a great job helping people manage and improve their financial situation and part of that was referring people to the foodbank to help with food costs.
"We can then deliver the food parcels once a week for their clients to collect. This helps if someone doesn't have transport or the petrol to drive the distance from Papamoa to the foodbank," Goodwin said.
"We believe that by working with the budget advisers in our community and assisting their clients with food, it ends up making a long-term difference to someone's life."
Like it has for Annie and her two young daughters.
More than $3500 raised in the first week for the Tauranga Community Foodbank
Since the Bay of Plenty Times Christmas Appeal launched this time last week:
- $1260 cash has been donated
- 1140 food items (valued at $2 each) have been donated