More than 15,000 people, including 9000 children, sought help from the Tauranga Community Foodbank last year.

The numbers equate to more than the population of Katikati, Te Puna and Te Puke combined - and are expected to increase this year as Christmas approaches.

Today, the Bay of Plenty Times launches its Christmas Appeal to collect for the foodbank, ahead of what is its busiest time of the year.

Tauranga Community Foodbank manager Nicki Goodwin said: "Our shelves are okay at the moment, but that changes in a heartbeat."

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Goodwin said demand doubled, if not tripled, at Christmas. But often, so did people's generosity. Last year's Bay of Plenty Times Christmas Appeal raised $128,700 worth of donations. On one particular day $18,488 was collected.

Tauranga Community Foodbank manager Nicki Goodwin and warehouse manager Brendon Collins get into the festive spirit as the Bay of Plenty Times Christmas Appeal begins. Photo / Andrew Warner
Tauranga Community Foodbank manager Nicki Goodwin and warehouse manager Brendon Collins get into the festive spirit as the Bay of Plenty Times Christmas Appeal begins. Photo / Andrew Warner

"In December we are really busy but that flows through right to March. What happens is a lot of people no longer have the support they have through schools such as school breakfasts and lunches, or some school staff won't have that wage coming in over the holidays."

For many, the food bank was their answer. However, it was a year-long service only made possible through the generosity of businesses, donors, and volunteers.

In the past year, the food bank helped an average of 296 people a week and its grocery bill for 2017 was $70,000 - "and that was for staple items".

The bill did not include desirables such as baking supplies or personal care items, which are sometimes covered by specific donations, Goodwin said.

It also did not include the recent $13,000 bill for necessary insulation of the foodbank building, or the regular rent payments.

But it was not just the foodbank's finances that felt the pinch, Goodwin said.

"What we are seeing more of right now is that there's nothing left of wages at the end of the week. It takes very, very little, such as needing a new tyre for the car, that they need our service," she said.

"The tragedy is people leave it until they have no other option. No one wants to come to a charity like a foodbank. They will use up all of their credit first. It's a hard, hard thing, to ask for help."

Goodwin said if they could help make such an experience a little easier, then they've helped make a person's bad day a little brighter.

Working with Tauranga's 95 foodbank-affiliated social service agencies also ensured people needing help in other areas were looked after.

"With everyone working together, the agencies and us, people are really getting support. I think Tauranga is great at helping people."

Bay of Plenty Times editor Scott Inglis said he was thrilled to be helping the Tauranga Community Foodbank again "and I encourage everyone to donate to the cause".

"Without the help of the foodbank hundreds of families go without each year. They do such a great job and help so many people and families who need it."

Cash or cans - first collection for Tauranga Community Foodbank begins

Today the first of many end-of-year collections for the Tauranga Community Foodbank begins.

Members of the Tauranga Te Papa Rotary Club will be collecting cash or cans while at Bureta Countdown. Their efforts come as Bay of Plenty Times launches its Christmas Appeal this weekend and will be included as part of the appeal.

Club member Neil Percival said the Rotary Club will be at the supermarket from 10am to 6pm, and doing the same again at Countdown in Bethlehem in two weeks' time.

"Most of us in society don't realise how desperate some people are. Particularly when it's food. There's a terrible problem out there."

Percival would know. He's spent that past two to three years on the board of the foodbank and has just this week stepped down from the role.

"There's something particularly rewarding about helping in society."

Percival said the Rotary Club had always had a close affinity with the Tauranga Community Foodbank.

"We always support local charities and we decided to focus on the foodbank, especially coming up to Christmas. The Rotary Club generally has a close association with the foodbank in Tauranga.

The idea of doing a cash or cans collection "was a new one for us" but Percival hoped people without cash would be happy to donate one or two food items.

How to apply for a food parcel?

You will need to visit one of the Tauranga Community Foodbank's approved referral agencies to obtain a "food parcel referral". Just take along some form of ID and they will be able to get things sorted for you. They will give the foodbank a call so that they know you will be visiting for some help. That way the team at the foodbank can have everything ready when you arrive.

Referral agencies include:
Tauranga Budget Advice – 17th Avenue (Historic Village)
Salvation Army – Cameron Rd, Tauranga
Papamoa Family Services – 35 Hartford Ave, Papamoa
Hillier Centre – Gloucester Rd, Mt Maunganui
St Peters Church – Cameron Rd, Tauranga
Welcome Bay Community Centre – Welcome Bay Rd, Tauranga
Merivale Community Centre – Fraser St, Tauranga
St Vincent de Paul Support Centre – 16th Ave, Tauranga
Te Tuinga Whanau – Chadwick Rd, Tauranga