Supporting thousands of people with food a year is no simple feat for the Tauranga Community Foodbank, but it’s made possible with more than 100 referral partners.
The Bay of Plenty Times six-week annual Christmas Appeal for the foodbank is nearing the end of its third week.
This year, the foodbank helped 22,298 people from 8213 households, which included 11,797 children and spent an average of just over $20,000 per month on staple foods compared to about $14,800 the year before.
All but two of the partners were long-term, some dating back 30 years. ‘Here to Help U’ and The Peoples Project are newer, foodbank manager Nicki Goodwin said.
Some made a few referrals a year while others referred thousands.
She said the valued relationships ensured people got food when needed.
Good Neighbour had been there since its inception and provide the foodbank with rescued food and refer whānau in need.
In the past year, more than 2500 foodbank referrals came from Here to Help U.
Another large referral partner was Bay Financial Mentors who work alongside foodbank clients to improve their financial situations. They refer clients for grocery support when needed, with close to 2000 referrals in the past year.
If someone needs foodbank support more than four times a year, they’re connected with a registered financial mentor, Goodwin said.
Long-standing partners C3 City Church and Salvation Army also provide financial mentoring, and make emergency food support referrals. St Peters House and St Vincent de Paul have been referral partners for decades.
Goodwin said people often found themselves without income when dealing with illness, and it received emergency food support referrals from Tauranga Hospital departments including mental health, the cancer centre, maternity, and general wards.
Referrals are also made by health services Te Puna Hauora and Te Manu Toroa.
Meanwhile, Plunket staff refer people for grocery support, which often includes items for babies and young children.
Community-based organisations Welcome Bay Community Centre, Merivale Community Centre, and Hillier Centre referred local families needing emergency or short-term food support.
‘Here to help u’ Bay of Plenty connector Karli Morris said the demand for food increased “significantly” since it launched in 2020, and the partnership with the foodbank was “essential” and meant they could support families the same day.
She said the majority of people initially requested food support. Once speaking with the connectors, people “tend to open up about other struggles” meaning they can be connected to a range of support including mental health, financial and budgeting, and employment.
“No one falls through the gaps.”
The People’s Project manager Tania York said clients “breathe a big sigh of relief” when they know the foodbank can help with food for a few days, offering a hand-up, not a handout.
The agency supports long-term homeless people to move into their own home, and about half of the locally housed clients use the foodbank.
The people have gone from living rough, in vehicles, or in emergency housing, into a home, and want to feel like they are living a normal life.
The foodbank also gave out recipes to help educate people about what they can best cook with the food they’re given and make that stretch.
Good Neighbour manager Simone Gibson said people came to them distressed and overwhelmed, and this was met with a “calm, friendly” voice when referred to the “experienced” foodbank.
The food rescue supplied the foodbank with daily fresh produce and products for the nutritious parcels that are suitable for the available cooking facilities.
Whānau Āwhina Plunket Tauranga clinical leader Sandy Shanly said the referrals the team made were up 13 per cent on last year, with much of that being for food.
“There is no let-up, families are doing it tough in the lead-up to Christmas.”
“We are truly grateful for the Tauranga Community Foodbank and those who give generously so we can pay it forward to the families we support raising the next generation.”
A Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty spokesman said it referred 210 patients and whānau between October last year and this year, and said the foodbank played a “key role” in the community social safety net.
He said it was particularly valuable for those unable to work for a period of time after surgery or having a tough time financially.
For anyone needing support: submit a help request in minutes online 24/7 at www.heretohelpu.nz or freephone 0800 568 273 and leave a message.