Social service providers in Northland are bracing for a huge increase in demand for food parcels and gifts this festive season as more people join the unemployment queue.
Salvation Army is expecting a 20 per cent increase in demand while One Double Five Community House in Whangārei is calling for more food donations to help as many struggling families as possible this festive season and beyond.
Between Christmas and when students return to school for the new yYear is typically the toughest time for families.
Liz Cassidy-Nelson, chief executive of 155 Community House, said volunteers at Open Arms used to give out food parcels three days a week but were doing it for two days only as there was insufficient food in stock.
"We need help. There's not enough food but more families are coming through. We are doing 60 parcels on each of the two days a week at present.
"The issue is families that are coming through do not have enough income. After paying rent and their bills, the last thing they'll pay for is food," she said.
A food parcel can last three days.
Cassidy-Nelson said some families that received food parcels consisted of up to 11 people and that the demand started soaring from the lockdown.
This year, 155 Community House will have a Christmas Eve lunch and she expected between 80 and 100 people to attend.
The Community Ministries team leader at the Salvation Army in Whangārei, Trevor McLean, said the demand for food parcels in the mid north, in particular, has been huge.
His team is planning to open a foodbank in Kaikohe early next year to cope with the demand and the long-term planning is for another foodbank in Dargaville.
Salvation Army delivers between 350 and 400 food parcels a week throughout Northland and the bulk of it is in the mid north.
"During the lockdown, the Government subsidised a lot of groups providing kai and we were one of them. The demand highlights the level of poverty that existed out there pre-Covid and what Covid has done is it has brought it to the fore.
"This Christmas, we'll have 350 hampers plus adopt-a-family and then there'll be Christmas lunch for 120 to 150 people," he said.
Salvation Army director of community ministries Jono Bell said while some people had been able to transition to the Jobseeker benefit, more than 20,000 throughout New Zealand would not have been eligible for government support as the payments ran out just as Christmas loomed.
Northland has the highest number of people on the Jobseeker benefit as a proportion of the working age population.
According to statistics for the September quarter released by the Ministry of Social Development, 11,849 Northlanders were on that benefit - an increase of 2343 on the end of March.
Bell said added to the 20,000 was the extra 37,000 people who lost their jobs in the September quarter that would translate to a 20 per cent increase for Salvation Army in demand for food and gifts throughout New Zealand.
"The pressure on our clients and their whānau to make ends meet is enormous, and Covid-19 has added more uncertainty," Bell says.
Those wishing to help struggling families in Northland can do so through a number of ways.
Give a Gift of Hope online at salliesgiftsofhope.org, donate securely through wwwsalvationarmy.org.nz or phone 0800 53 00 00 to make a secure phone donation using your credit card.
People can also donate via internet banking—The Salvation Army bank account is BNZ 02 0568 0091726 00.
If you have a Supporter number, please enter this in the Reference field on your online payment form.
Email email@example.com to become a True Hero, to make regular monthly donations.
Food donations to Open Arms can be dropped off at its Robert St centre or call 09 4370185 to make alternative arrangements.