Christmas is always a busy time of year for the Tauranga Community Food Bank and this year the demand is greater than ever. But not for the reason you may expect.
"I don't think it's because of Covid," manager Nicki Goodwin said.
"During the year we were definitely busier because of Covid and we've still got new clients that are because of Covid, but the reality is the hardship has got harder.
"The cost of living hasn't improved, wages haven't really gone up, benefits haven't increased for a lot of people, single people trying to survive on their own are doing it toughest of all."
Goodwin said a lack of affordable housing was having a big impact in the community.
"It doesn't take much for people to not be able to afford to pay to live. When most of the income's going on housing there's nothing left.
"Whether that's a Government thing, where there [needs to be] more support for working people, some financial thresholds are changed for applying for support with living costs… I think that would make a difference."
And while many of us are looking forward to a summer break, the food bank will keep going.
"First priority is going to be getting through the school holidays, helping families get through," Goodwin said.
"We see a huge demand during the school holidays. The Food in Schools programmes are amazing but they stop during the holidays. Children still need feeding and that's where we step in which we're happy to do. That's going to be the big push – January to probably half of February."
This year the food bank has received some incredibly generous donations as well as some very thoughtful ones.
"Just today a lady dropped of 40 or 50 cookbooks and that's something really special and different. What we do with food parcels is try and encourage people to cook and that just ties in nicely."
And let's not forget about the volunteers who give up their free time to help others out.
"I believe in the philosophy of the foodbank," volunteer Gillian Tustin said.
"And I think there are an awful lot of people out there that do need a lot of support. And at this time of the year it's always nice to give."
For those in special circumstances this year, Goodwin has a few extra treats in the food parcels this Christmas.
"We're very aware that there's some people and families who are in extreme hardship, or have been working really closely with financial mentors this year. We want to reward them that bit more, so they're receiving a really good hamper that will include a ham and stuffed chicken, things like that that will hopefully make their day that much brighter."
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