A Christmas Day lunch in Whangārei, which had to be cancelled because of Covid restrictions, will not be running this year either.
The Salvation Army ran the free festive feast for many years, with the last in 2020 serving Christmas food and cheer to 120 guests.
But even though restrictions lifted last year, Covid is still having a lingering impact, said communities ministries manager Trevor McLean.
“It actually tuckered a lot of people out and we don’t have as many volunteers to assist,” he said.
“Over Covid, we had a lot of awesome people who put in a lot of time and hours ... At one stage, we had about 40 volunteers a day and we were going six days a week.
“Now it’s almost like the Covid blues, people are still recuperating and then there’s the cost of living too.”
The organisation will give out Christmas food hampers and children’s gifts to needy whānau, but increases in food prices means it will likely only be able to afford 150 hampers, rather than its usual 300.
During Covid, Salvation Army was helped with government funding for food parcels but that money has all dried up, he said.
McLean admitted many people still asked about the Christmas Day lunch and the organisation was unsure where to send them.
“There’s a lot of disappointed people - it’s heartbreaking but this is all we can do at this time.”
He hoped to have the festive lunch up and running again for next year but said it will depend on volunteers.
“It had a big impact on people’s lives ... It would be great to get it going again.”
Meanwhile, Salvation Army is encouraging people to donate food or children’s gifts for its hampers and whānau presents.
Donations can be made through the Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal, the Countdown Christmas Appeal or direct donations to its Aubrey St centre.
Another organisation which helps feed the needy each week, Soul Food What’s Cooking Whangārei, will hold a special Christmas feast on December 18.
The event will be Soul Food’s only sit-down meal of the year and will include a visit from Santa with small gifts for everyone, said organiser Rochelle Youens.
The organisation will not be doing its usual Monday-night meals on Christmas Day - as it will be the only Monday off for Rochelle and husband Chris - but they will be back on Boxing Day.
Youens is worried about those who do not have anywhere to go on Christmas Day but said Soul Food is also doing all it can.
“I think it’s sad if everyone else has family and friends that they can go to,” she said.
“We decided Christmas is important, that’s why we’re giving something - even if it’s a week before.”
The cost of food has greatly increased the number of people coming through Soul Food to nearly 100 a week, up from a low of under 20 during Covid-19 restrictions, Youens said.
Soul Food runs at the Anglican Hall in Regent from 7.30pm but people can drop off donations of food or gifts from 3pm on December 18 and 26.
Denise Piper is a news reporter for the Northern Advocate, focusing on health and business. She has more than 20 years in journalism and is passionate about covering stories that make a difference to Northlanders.