With the level 4 lockdown continuing in Auckland – the Auckland City Mission/Te Tāpui Atawhai is reporting a regrettable record.

Since this lockdown began, the Mission, with its partners, has distributed more than 6000 food parcels to Aucklanders needing support. That’s 2000 a week – which is a new record outside of the Christmas rush. Each parcel feeds a family of four for four days, with nutritious, varied ingredients.

Missioner Helen Robinson says COVID-19 is once again highlighting the increasing incidence of food insecurity and its long-reaching effects in our country.

“Every day we help people who cannot otherwise adequately provide for their families. The demand is even greater than the previous lockdowns,” says Robinson. “People who have not fully recovered from the last lockdown had just been coping. This latest level four change has left many more people no option than to request support such as a food parcel so they can put food on the table.”

Her comments come as recent research is published which shows New Zealanders experiencing food insecurity have many of the same dreams and aspirations as their fellow Kiwis. Food insecurity, however, prevents those goals becoming a reality according to the study by the Auckland City Mission/Te Tāpui Atawhai.

Recently published in Kōtuitui, the research is based on experiences of more than 600 people coming to the Mission seeking food support. Each research candidate had accessed support for food as they were not able to feed themselves and their families.

In the last year, the Mission provided more than 48,000 food parcels to families in times of crisis – a figure that’s almost double the number of parcels provided annually before COVID-19 hit. With figures rising again in this latest lockdown the coming year’s total is likely to exceed 50,000.

“Every day at Te Tāpui Atawhai we help people who can’t adequately provide for their families,” says Missioner Helen Robinson.

“Each of those people has a background, a story, that has led them to needing the Mission’s support. Over the years, we became conscious that those stories are often not heard or understood. We also became aware that there was no collective data highlighting the reasons that people experience food insecurity. So we began to research the subject.”

The first phase of the Mission’s research focused on the reasons people experience food insecurity. The key finding was people do not have adequate income to meet their basic needs, through societal issues such as low wages and benefits combined with high living costs.

This second phase focuses on the impact food insecurity has on people’s ambitions. The data identified that people experiencing food insecurity have the same aspirations as other New Zealanders.

Robinson notes, “The people we interviewed aspire to have appropriate and fulfilling employment, they want financial security and to secure a good life for their whānau – all of the things we all desire.

“But the reality is it’s beyond the reach of those we interviewed. It’s not, for example, simply a case of ‘go out and get a job’ if you’re unable to afford child-care or have to incur travel expenses yet don’t have the spare cash to get to your job.”

The work highlights the need for reforms that will enhance food security in Aotearoa, including lifting of benefits and implementing the living wage.

“The Mission will continue to advocate for an equitable Aotearoa,” says Robinson. “At the same time, we will always support people in their time of need – during each COVID-19 lockdown and at any other time. That includes distributing food so that people can feed their families nutritious meals in times when they would otherwise not be possible. Ours needs to be a society where everyone can fulfil their dreams and aspirations.”

Although Robinson says that the spike in demand for food parcels is challenging for the Mission, the team is committed to providing that vital support needed. She notes that the Ministry of Social Development has provided funding towards food parcels at this time while generous groups and individuals are also showing their support.

Robinson thanks those for their generosity while noting that further funds are needed.

The full research can be found online at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/117708