Why Food Banks?
New Zealand is a signatory to the United Nations Agenda 2030 for sustainable development that came into effect in January 2016. The Agenda’s goals include achieving zero hunger and ending poverty in all forms, everywhere.
According to the Ministry of Social Development, poverty in New Zealand is not just about having “less than”, it is about “not having enough”.
One of the main ways that poverty manifests is through food insecurity. Many households in New Zealand do not have the means to provide food for themselves, or their families. As food is crucial for healthy development, and providing the energy to pursue an active and productive life, it is vital to address this issue as one of urgency. If an individual does not have the basic means necessary to pursue opportunities, it is unlikely that they will be able to escape poverty.
Vinnies Food Bank aims to provide support to individuals facing food insecurity by supplying food parcels to support them through difficult times, until they can find alternative means through which to source food.
Everyone that uses the Food Bank service is given a parcel that contains a combination of fruit and vegetables, perishables (such as eggs, cheese and bread), non-perishables (such as milk powder, pasta, rice, canned goods, crackers, tea, sugar and flour), and toiletries, dependent on their needs.
In the future, Vinnies hopes that the Food Bank service can go even further in addressing not only food insecurity, but also tackling issues such as food waste, nutrition, and poverty.
Vinnies food primarily comes from food drives, donations and Kaibosh Food Rescue. The organisation occasionally purchases both perishable and non-perishable items to top up these supplies.
While Vinnies is able to receive a lot of food through these sources, there is still plenty of food waste that occurs in New Zealand that could be redirected for social purposes. Organisations such as Wellington City Mission, Kaibosh and the Free Store have contracts with well-known providers that seek to eliminate food waste and redistribute it to those in need. Vinnies is also working on creating local partnerships in the community to ensure that even more food gets redirected. Further, by giving recipients the choice of what goes in their food parcels, Vinnies is able to maximise the efficacy of their service, whilst minimising waste.
For many people, Vinnies food parcels are their only means of accessing food for a period of time. Vinnies are now in the process of rethinking what they put in a food parcel, such as the type of food and its nutritional value, the amount of food, how long each item in the parcel should last, and how many people it is intended to feed. The organisation is considering giving people even more choice over what goes into their food parcel, as everyone’s needs differ, and everyone deserves the right to dictate what they are eating.
According to the Food Research & Action Centre, adults living in poverty are at greater risk for a number of health issues, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity (primarily among women), depression, disability, poor oral health, and premature mortality. This is why it is crucial to strike the correct balance between giving out good food and giving people the autonomy to choose what they are eating.
Vinnies collects basic information about the individuals receiving food parcels so that they can better tailor their service and ensure that recipients are getting adequate support. All services are available to food bank clients such as a social worker, pregnancy assistance, visitation, Conference support and referrals to other agencies. If a person is continuously seeking food aid, Vinnies encourages a meeting with their Social Worker to see if any help can be provided to address underlying issues, such as ensuring that they are receiving their full government entitlement. While the aim of the Food Bank is to provide people with relief from hardships, the ultimate goal is to ensure that the hardships are temporary, and assist people into a position where they do not require aid, and where they do have enough.
It is the role of the government to step in to in to address longer-term hardships and address underlying causes such as mental health, poverty and unemployment. However, the Vinnies Food Bank is a key part of the support needed for financially unlucky families. Vinnies are open to new ideas to improve the service and are currently working with Otago University to review the nutritional qualities of their food bank parcels, and policies.
If you or anyone that you know is in need of food aid, the Vinnies Office is located at Level 1, 207 Riddiford Street, Newtown, Wellington and any queries can be forwarded to