Warmer clothing will have been dug out from the bottom of drawers or backs of wardrobes, and the power bills are likely starting to climb in many households as heaters are pulled out and electric blankets rolled onto beds. The winter months can be a source of fun, cosy memories with family, for some they bring comfort food, but for others winter brings a unique set of challenges. Shauni James discovers more about these winter challenges from some people who know about them only too well.

Winter is fast descending on Rotorua, and services to help people in the colder months are feeling the crunch.

Tania Hore, Rotorua Salvation Army community ministries manager, said as the Salvation Army entered into the winter months it was low on a few essential food parcel items such as spaghetti and baked beans.

She said they were frequently in need of essential toiletries for families, such as soap, toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper and sanitary items.

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"Cans of soup and stew that can be warmed up are really helpful during the winter months, particularly for food parcels for singles, and they are great for families too.

"People are always hungrier during the colder winter months."

Over summer the food bank had not been as busy as in previous years, Hore said.

She said this could be attributed to the way members of the community cared for each other and other agencies helped carry the load.

Hore said while food provision was an important part of what the Salvation Army did, its aim was greater than that.

Rotorua Salvation Army appeals for winter foodbank staples

"We are here to support people when they come through our doors, and that means helping them look at other factors that may be contributing to their hardship and their inability to provide food for themselves or family members."

She said there was a social support team onsite which worked in conjunction with the food bank and would advocate for people relating to their needs, or help them find homes if that was a need they had.

"We also provide courses to support people on their journeys."

Hore said following Easter weekend they experienced an influx of people coming in for food help.

Tania Hore, Rotorua Salvation Army community ministries manager. Photo / File
Tania Hore, Rotorua Salvation Army community ministries manager. Photo / File

Rotorua Salvation Army corps officer Kylie Overbye said they were expecting an increase of need over the winter months.

"Some challenges people face are keeping their homes warm and dry, and having adequate blankets and clothes for children."

She said the Salvation Army was expecting an increase in food provision which they would be able to provide but setting aside money to help people with other needs like firewood, or winter school uniform jerseys or jackets was important too.

"The Red Shield Appeal helps us to provide this support, and we really appreciate the continued generosity of local people."

Toi Te Ora medical officer of health Dr Phil Shoemack said the more common winter illnesses were those related to respiratory problems.

Toi Te Ora medical officer of health Dr Phil Shoemack.
Toi Te Ora medical officer of health Dr Phil Shoemack.

These included the common cold and influenza, and pneumonia could be more common too, particularly in older people.

Shoemack said they all presented in much the same way - such as coughs, colds, runny eyes, sometimes sore ears - and the range of severity could be from not feeling right for a part of the day to being bed bound and hospitalised.

"When it's colder we tend to spend more time indoors ... with other people, and people's viruses are spread from person to person."

He said prevention was pretty straightforward.

"It's attention to hygiene, starting with hand washing, which is amazingly important. Regular hand washing is really important to prevent the spreading of illness."

He said it was also important to keep away from others if people did get ill.

Shoemack said the influenza vaccine was effective.

Then there were aspects such as dressing appropriately for the temperature, having the house at a warm temperature, and carrying on with the usual recommendation for a good quality diet.

Niwa's seasonal climate outlook for May to July predicts a 55 per cent chance Bay of Plenty temperatures will be above average.

It is also predicts rainfall totals are about equally likely to be near normal (35 per cent chance) or below normal (40 per cent chance), and soil moisture levels and there's a 50 per cent chance river flows will be below normal.