Demand for food parcels from Te Puke's food bank has skyrocketed.

The food bank, run by EmpowermentNZ, has seen a close to tenfold increase in the numbers given out since alert level 4 began in comparison to 12 months ago.

''We've been doing basically a week's worth every day - that's a huge increase,'' says general manager Scott Nicholson.

It's a contrast to the usual situation during kiwifruit season when demand tends to reduce as more people are working.


Despite social distancing when parcels are handed over, it's a chance to discuss people's situations.

''A lot of people have either lost jobs or are on reduced income, and that's making life difficult.''

Those calling the region's Emergency Operations Centre 0800 number in need of food or clothing are also referred to EmpowermentNZ.

To be able to meet the extra demand, EmpowermentNZ is still asking for and accepting donations of food.

''Donations of fresh fruit and vegetables have been fantastic, especially with the increased demand. But bread is one of the main things we are finding ourselves having to buy at the moment.

''What we are encouraging people to do is drop things off when they are going home [from the supermarket] and not to make special trips.''

Non-perishable food is, as always, welcome.

Food parcels are delivered to those unable to travel and staff are also shopping for those over 70 who have no one to shop for them. Scott says the general feeling of those he talks to is positive.


''Most people are upbeat with it all. What we are finding is those who are struggling the most are the elderly, or those who are most isolated and haven't got the same social interaction they normally have.''

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EmpowermentNZ is also providing hot meals for Te Puke's homeless three days a week.

''We've got prepared meals we are able to heat up for them as they come to the door and we've continued working with them as much as we can.

''We were a little bit concerned, and we did discuss this with the police initially, that on the whole they were congregating together, but in the end we came to the conclusion that that was their bubble and as long as other people weren't breaking that bubble then that was probably okay.''

The staff handing out the meals wear full PPE.

''We are just taking those moments and that time to check on their wellbeing and their other needs and things. Most of them have requested warm clothing and blankets and or sleeping bags that we've been able to provide as well.''