For the first six months of 2014 there continues to be a high demand for food parcels. On average, the Foodbank provided 149 food parcels a month from January to the end of June, or a total of 895 parcels. These parcels supported over 1300 adults and over 1400 children.
While the average number of parcels is down on last year, the average size is up. This seems to reflect increasing stresses on families. We are giving out fewer parcels to individuals and more to parents who are struggling to meet the needs of their children.
There are many drivers that bring people to the Foodbank. We get people with health problems, people with disabilities and people suffering from mental illnesses as well as those who are in stand-down periods, who have been hit by a sudden financial crisis or who are just unable to cope with the combination of problems they face.
The Foodbank is increasingly working with other support agencies in the Hutt community to create a support network for those in need.
A measure of the success of the Foodbank’s networking and screening policies comes in statistics on return visits. Nearly half the people who came to the Foodbank in each of the past four years (2010 to 2013) or to whom parcels were supplied through other agencies got help only once. Over the same four years over 80% were helped five times or fewer, with this percentage being over 85% in 2013.
This tells us a couple of things. Firstly it suggests we are filling genuine gaps. Most people come to the Foodbank directly or indirectly just to get themselves or their families through some short-term crisis and they only make one or a few visits. Secondly it suggests that our screening is working – we can identify the people who are trying to manipulate the system and in the end they may get limited food parcels but they at least are told where to go for help.
This may be tough compassion but in the end it is the only fair way for the Foodbank to distribute the food and use the money that comes to it from the public.