A pork windfall has helped EmpowermentNZ add more meat to its food parcels.

EmpowermentNZ's food bank is seeing unprecedented demand for food parcels during the Covid-19 pandemic, with demand over 400 per cent up on the same time last year.

One of the issues this has created is the limited amount of meat it has to put in food parcels.

Last week EmpowermentNZ received 200kg of pork sausages.


The sausages have come, via Tauranga's Good Neighbour organisation, from a national initiative that has seen the Government purchase surplus pork at cost. EmpowermentNZ will continue to receive pork products while the initiative continues.

Food bank manager Clare Cooper says she is grateful for the extra meat that will be available.

''We always struggle to put much meat into our food parcels. If we are doing food parcels for a week, they may only be getting two lots of meat in them, so this will mean we can do a bit more,'' she says.

As well as providing food for communities in need, the Government's announcement that it will purchase surplus pork for the country's food banks will also go a long way to easing the looming animal welfare crisis in the New Zealand pork sector.

Independent butchers were not allowed to open fully for retail customers under the Covid-19 alert level 4 and 3 restrictions, resulting in a surplus of up to 5000 pigs on New Zealand farms every week and a looming animal welfare issue.

Under the initiative, the Government is purchasing surplus pork at 'cost' up to a maximum of 2000 pigs or 112,000kg per week, which will then be delivered to food banks via national food rescue network KiwiHarvest.

"This concept is a win-win," says NZ Pork chief executive David Baines. "Quality, nutritious food will be provided to people who are in desperate need and surplus pork moved off-farm and through the supply chain.

"It will also deliver much-needed cash to pork wholesalers who are under severe cash-flow and profitability pressure.


"Supply to food banks, together with butchers being allowed to open fully under alert level 2, means the sector is confident the severity of the animal welfare issue can be averted."

Good Neighbour in Tauranga was approached to be a distribution point for the pork.

Todd Rowling from Good Neighbour says the organisation is always happy to help communities further afield than just Tauranga.

''We were sent the information and asked 'how many packs do you think you can deliver into the community?'.

''We've got all our charities we are working with, but we wanted to spread the love out a little bit, so we've been working with [Te Puke's] Search Party Charitable Trust and Empowerment.''

He says the initiative highlights some of the good things that have come out of the pandemic.

''One of the real bonuses of this is that people are starting to reach out and share their resources more.''

Clare says since the start of the alert level 4 lockdown in March, EmpowermentNZ has distributed 417 food parcels - in the same period last year that figure was around 100.

''One day we did 34 - which is about what we [normally] do in a month at this time of year with everybody working [in the kiwifruit industry]. It's insane.''

The food bank has been accepting donations right through the various alert levels and Clare says staples such as rice and pasta are in high demand.

The food bank is also in desperate need of a decent, good sized fridge.

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Clare says the pandemic has seen people being more generous with donations, especially of fresh fruit and vegetables.

''That's the really cool thing, we've probably had more fruit and veges come in. People have said 'we were busy at work last year', but they've had the time this year.

''We've had boxes and boxes of it and the more fruit and vegetables we can put in parcels the better.''

EmpowermentNZ has also seen people looking after their neighbours and calling if the feel someone is in need of assistance.

''We've had people ring on other people's behalf and we've had more first time requests than we've ever had before and some of these people haven't rung for themselves, but for their families or neighbours.

''I keep saying it - you can't out-give God, but Te Puke is having a jolly good try.''