"It's going to stop people from reaching tipping points."
These are the words from one of the 32 Bay of Plenty food providers to receive $1.1
million over the next two years to help with an unprecedented demand for food.
The Ministry of Social Development received $32m through Budget 2020 to support foodbanks, food rescue and community food services.
The agency's services and contract management general manager Kelvin Moffatt said this was a response to the "significantly increased" demand for food as a result of the pandemic.
The Food Secure Communities funding was rolled out in three phases.
Te Puna Ora O Mataatua Charitable Trust, based in Whakatāne, received a grant from each phase totalling $235,000 which, chief executive Chris Tooley said, was a "lifeline".
"It's going to stop people from reaching tipping points when it comes to poverty ... all those things that trigger mental health issues, drug and alcohol issues, depression."
The first phase was the Community Food Transition Grant with 13 successful applicants in the region who received a total of $155,200.
This was part of the $2m distributed nationwide to temporarily support emergency community food services for costs from June to August.
The trust's initial funding - $15,000 - was purely for essential food which helped when they had referrals for grants coming from "everywhere".
"We were doing 300 to 400 drops a week."
He said the kai packs, along with the other free services they provided, offered a safety net to their people.
For the second phase, they received $200,000 for the next two years for things involved with giving out kai.
This was called the Community Food Response, created to provide two-year funding to meet food needs from August this year to June 2022.
There were 10 successful applicants from the region who will receive a total of $834,000.
"It allows people to keep their heads above water until they can get a job or a firmer financial footing."
He said bubbles were broken as people would leave households looking for food during the lockdown.
"It's huge, and it can't be underestimated. Especially out in the rural community."
He said there was no doubt the packs had stopped people becoming homeless.
"Once you take away a warm house and kai in the belly, all these other triggers start escalating ... It's stopped people getting into critical status areas relating to alcohol, drugs, depression."
For the final phase, the Food Secure Communities Grant, the Bay of Plenty received $177,390 which was announced this month.
This is for communities to work together to develop and implement a plan to create long-term, sustainable food security, and the trust received the money as the Eastern Bay lead providers.
"We look at all the food ... the money, all the other providers, and map it all out," finding any gaps and making it more efficient.
Tooley said providers around the country sprung into action, but there was no coordination which led to double-ups in some cases.
"We're going to use the response funding to make sure all the gaps are filled."
At the moment, they were delivering around 100 packs a week and Tooley said people being able to go fishing and hunting helped with the demand.
He said if the country did not need to go into another lockdown, they would like to put the money towards more sustainable food sources.
Tauranga's Te Tuinga Whānau Support Services Trust manager Tommy Wilson said they had been providing 200 meals a day at the marae for the homeless since they received the funding seven months ago.
They received $12,000 from the Community Food Response Grant Fund.
"We haven't buttoned off even though the funding is long-gone ... that might've paid for a couple of weeks."
Now, they relied on their own resources and community "king-pins" which had kept them going.
"We will continue to do it because the demand's not getting any less, in fact, we could do 500 meals a day if we had the facility."
They have formed a relationship with Bay Venues and are in the process of setting up a commercial kitchen at the Greerton Hall.