Mounting poverty among some of Dunedin's working families is forcing parents to keep their children out of school because they do not have enough food for them, a Family Works Presbyterian Support Otago worker says.

Family Works social work supervisor Debbie Gelling said pressure on the inner-city food bank was high as families struggled to cover the costs of heating homes following a cold summer across the region.

"The cold summer certainly hasn't helped people at all.

"People are coming to us because if you've got nothing to feed your kids for breakfast, the kids don't go to school.


"Kids are [also] not going because they don't have bus money. It's a constant issue."

The service gave out about 80 food parcels a week, which would feed 250 people.

People spent "a lot of money" heating their homes and food budgets were often the first to be slashed, Gelling said.

There had been a 20% increase in applications to the service for assistance with electricity costs and some people were "really struggling" to have both warm homes and food in their pantries.

The financial challenges of covering such costs while working were not worth it for some people, she said.

"People do stop working to go back on the benefit.

"It is never anyone's first choice, but in some cases they think it is easiest for them."

St Vincent de Paul Dunedin area president Lynlea Forbes said the foodbank was "run off its feet".

Through the foodbank, the service was aware of people who were too scared to use their heaters because they could not afford to pay power bills, Forbes said.

Presbyterian Support Otago foodbank volunteer Karen Judge stacks cans in the service's large pantry. Photo / Peter McIntosh
Presbyterian Support Otago foodbank volunteer Karen Judge stacks cans in the service's large pantry. Photo / Peter McIntosh

"Then they are hesitant to use their firewood because it is not properly winter yet."

The service was reliant on donations of food from its parishioners to keep the foodbank stocked.

Presbyterian Support would rely on donations to the Octacan event to be held in Dunedin's Octagon on June 22 to help feed people.

It was hoped more than 18,500 cans would be given.

The event would not erase Dunedin's poverty problem, but it would make a "huge difference" for the service and those who used it, Gelling said.

• Octacan, Thursday June 22. 7.30am-2.30pm in the Octagon.


Presbyterian Support Otago

• 70-80 food parcels a week

• 20% increase in demand for electricity fund

• 5 crates of milk arrive on a Monday, usually gone by Wednesday

• 10 volunteers

St Vincent de Paul
• 60 food parcels a week
• 30% of food parcels go to families