An easing of lockdown restrictions hasn't helped bring the demand for food parcels down and social service providers in Northland fear the situation will remain the same throughout winter.

The demand for food packages supplied by the Salvation Army in Whangārei hit unprecedented levels with an increase of more than 600 per cent since the Covid-19 lockdown, excluding other services such as emergency welfare, addiction and housing support services.

Working in partnership, the Ministry of Social Development and Te Kahu o Taonui have delivered more than 10,000 care packages to over 7000 Northland households during alert levels two, three, and four.

Demand for food parcels at Food Rescue Northland has jumped from an average of 20 per day to about 60.

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Salvation Army Whangārei manager of community ministries Trevor McLean said the foodbank on Aubrey St was still distributing up to 700 food parcels every three weeks to families in Whangārei, Ruakaka, Dargaville, Waitangi, Kaikohe, and Moerewa.

"The demand is more noticeable in the regions now. We haven't seen a reduction in demand with the easing of restrictions so what we are doing now is planning at least two months ahead on how demand will impact us from the likes of jobseekers and those who lose their jobs.

"For us, it's about ensuring we maintain the food supply. We are blessed to get fresh fruit and vegetables every week and where previously we were giving out one parcel, now we've extended that to two shopping bags," McLean said.

"We just don't know what it's going to be like in two to three months' time looking at what's happened in other countries that lifted restrictions, only to put them back on, so we need to ensure we have enough should the demand persists long-term."

Apart from the Salvation Army, Te Kahu o Taonui mobilised and activated its 11 Iwi network prior to Covid-19 Alert level 4 restrictions, built from a concern that elders were unable to access supermarket items due to excessive buying.

From March 25 to mid-May, 15,971 kai and care packages have been distributed across Northland by more than 54 iwi members and volunteers.

"It was evident to us that there was need to help the vulnerable people in our community, our elderly. This was a region-wide response and we worked hard to help all people, we didn't skip letterboxes. We are proud to have delivered this service and help our
communities during this time," Toa Faneva, chief executive of Te Rūnanga o Whaingaroa and Te Kahu o Taonui Iwi lead, said.

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