Kaitaia's Fresh Start Family Services and Food Bank Inc is the last resort for those in the town who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. And, like every other food bank around the country, it is facing unprecedented demand.

The immediate crisis, however, is a shortage of committee members.

Manager Sophie Smith-Cressy said yesterday that the organisation had been going well until late last year, when founding member Rose Walker took very well earned retirement, followed by four other committee members, who were unable to continue thanks to work commitments.

That left a committee of five, she said, and a constitution requiring a quorum of four for the monthly meetings.

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"We've been very fortunate in that everyone has kept showing up," she said, but the organisation was sailing close to the wind, and really did need some new faces.

Rose Walker had left especially large shoes to fill. She had served what was originally Rape Crisis as chair, manager and in all sorts of other roles, but no one was expecting to see that kind of commitment. Committee membership was not onerous, involving just one meeting a month, on the third Tuesday, for about an hour from 2.30pm.

The food bank, which was now the organisation's major focus, was supported by two volunteers, one of whom was there every day to sort out parcels, and the other being on call, as required, to take care of various administrative tasks.

Smith-Cressy said Fresh Start was Kaitaia's food bank of last resort. Those who were helped had to be referred to by around 30 organisations, and had have already received their full entitlements from Work and Income, the Salvation Army and the Far North Community Foodbank Trust.

Many of those who arrived at Fresh Start's door had been referred by WINZ, she said, and demand had soared this year, particularly following the arrival of Covid-19.

Just over 400 food parcels had been dispensed last financial year (to the end of March), while last month alone 52 packages were given to 24 families, six couples and 22 individuals, totalling 68 adults and 68 children (from birth to 17).

About half of those people had been referred by emergency housing authorities.

Referrals were received from as far afield as Whangārei, but food parcel recipients had to live in Kaitaia.

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Smith-Cressy said much of her time was devoted to finding the money to pay for food. She was continually applying to philanthropic organisations, although those sources of funding were becoming more difficult to access thanks to the pandemic. Food was also donated by schools, Kaitaia Hospital and the general public. Financial support was also received from the wider community.

Every dollar raised was very carefully spent, she added, including the purchase and butchering of cattle beasts from time to time.

Work was now in hand to re-launch the organisation, as Fresh Start 20/20 Family Services and Food Bank, and it was hoped to have a website and Facebook page up and running soon so everyone would be able to see what what was being done and the support that was being received, but yesterday she was just hoping to see some new faces at Tuesday's annual general meeting.

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Fresh Start Family Services and Food Bank will hold its annual general meeting at its offices, in the old Warehouse carpark, Kaitaia (behind the Gecko Café), at 2.30pm on Tuesday. Anyone who would like to know more is welcome to contact Sophie Smith-Cressy on (09) 408-0212.