Some 180 volunteers are taking to the streets to collect food and donations from households in Whanganui’s annual foodbank drive.
Sirens from 40 vehicles will sound across the city on October 19 from 6pm.
In 2022, the foodbank drive produced over 3154 parcels to feed at least 8154 people.
But Whanganui City Mission manager Antony Nobbs said there had been a huge increase in demand for food parcels.
“Certainly the need is higher and there’s less money available, but often that’s when people are most generous,” he said.
“We’re in an economic situation where you only need one big bill like a car breaking down, and people can’t meet their needs anymore.”
Families in need are identified by the City Mission through other social service agencies such as the hospital, budgeting services, social workers, via the prisons or by self-referral.
Nobbs said cereal and coffee were often missing from donations for food parcels.
“They’re items that tend to not be donated normally, and so they’re ones that we end up having to buy.”
Whanganui North Rotary Club organiser Maurice Mildenhall said that items with a short shelf-life presented some problems for the food drive.
He said foods that lasted such as cans of baked beans, flour and potatoes were more ideal.
“It’s tinned food and stuff that’s got a longer life and is less perishable than fruit and vegetables, as well as cleaning products, soaps, toothpaste and everything that a person could use to run a household.
“Generally, we will get quite a spread of donated goods.”
Nobbs said the City Mission’s foodbank had been “very busy” lately.
“A lot of families come in where both parents are working, but they’re really struggling at the moment.”
Food parcels given out by the City Mission typically contain enough food to last a family a week.
“A lot of people will come in on a daily basis to get meals and won’t be asked questions.
“The food parcels are a bit more formal, so we’ll go through a process where we work out whether they’ve got access to power, or if they own pets, and how we can help them.”
He said even if there was a sudden improvement in the economy it would not help the situations of people who were struggling currently.
“I would say the need is going to keep increasing, even with a change of government I don’t see there being a quick fix.
“A lot of people are in that situation increasingly where they’re three weeks away from going under, so if they don’t receive income for that period of time they can be in real trouble.”
Ninety Whanganui Collegiate students are assisting with donation pick ups from around the city.
“The high school kids are the next generation so having their eyes opened a bit, and connecting them to the needs that surround them is a great thing.”
Whanganui Collegiate senior master Rob van Dort said he hoped the foodbank drive motivated students to be of service in the future.
“I am always encouraged by the joy that our students experience on the evening of the foodbank drive.
“Whether they are out in vehicles collecting food, sorting it at the depot or packing it away, they are all involved enthusiastically.”
Whanganui City Mission and Rotary Club asks Whanganui residents to bring donations to their gate or leave them by the letterbox for collection on October 19.
Eva de Jong is a reporter for the Whanganui Chronicle covering health stories and general news. She began as a reporter in 2023.