“JC” says she felt sick after being given a food bag which contained rotten fruit, broken eggs and packet food well past its best before date. Photo: Sinead Ogilvie.

Busy bank empty, needs help

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Despite an improving economy, it’s still tough going for some locals with more people reaching out for help, according to local agencies which are being “inundated”.

Last week a Bishopdale woman, who is living on less than $20 per week, was given a food bag with rotten fruit and other goods that were weeks past the used by date.

Mike Gibson, coordinator of a local food bank, says in just three weeks in January, more than 100 parcels were given out and last week alone saw more than 26 recipients. “It’s getting quite usual to see that.”

He says that while demand for the parcels is increasing, donations seem to be going the other way and that may be to blame for the off food.

“People aren’t donating to the extent that they used to, times are hard. People put quite a few items in a bag and it looks pretty big, but when it comes into the food bank and we put it on the shelf, it’s not much in the scheme of things.”

He says the more support from the community the better.

The Bishopdale woman, who is on an invalid’s benefit, would only go by her initials JC for this article. She says that after her rent and other bills are paid, she is left with exactly $18.81 to feed, clothe and look after herself.

“I don’t have money for food. By the time I pay my rent, my insurance and other bills that is all I am left with.

“I usually ring my son up, but I don’t like to do that all the time. He’s got his own bills to pay. He shouldn’t’ have to look after me. It’s horrible.”

Last week she says she went hungry for two days before approaching Work and Income and other agencies for help. She was declined a food grant from WINZ and was left feeling demoralised after a local charity gave her a food parcel containing goods passed their best before date and “rotten fruit.”

“I felt sick. I felt really, really, really sick. I felt bad having to ask. But I had no money, it was terrible. You go somewhere for help and what do you get?”

Rosalie Grant, a budget advisor from Nelson Budget Service, says people seeking food parcels is common.

“More and more people are asking for help. They only ask if they have used up all other options.”

She says Nelson Budget Service is constantly under pressure.

“We’re seeing more clients than we are funded for. We are underresourced and there are a large number of people asking for help.”

She says not all people who are seeking help are in the same predicament and they come from different backgrounds.

“Everybody is different, everybody’s situation is different.  Most of our clients are not in the position because they want to be, they are not in that position because they have chosen to be.

“Sometimes it’s just bad luck, they’ve lost a job or had a baby that they weren’t expecting. Sometimes people are working 40 hours and have a family to feed and it’s just not enough.”

She says that although they are working at capacity, it’s not all bad news with work seeming to pick up. “And there are a lot of agencies out there to help people, they just need to know where they are and have the wherewithal to seek it out.”