Levin foodbank Hope Kete struggling to meet needs amid cost of living rises

A Levin food charity has been swamped in the past week by people struggling to afford basic food items after a rampant rise in the cost of living.

People were lining up for more than two hours before the doors at Hope Kete were due to open on Wednesday, fearing they might miss out on key items should stocks run out, as it operated on a first in, first served basis.

Hope Kete in Bath Street initially opened in November 2020, in response to a need identified within the community to help people struggling for food after the outbreak of Covid-19.

Manager Tania Turipa said initially about 50 people a week might pick up food. That number had tripled in the past few weeks tomore than 150, putting pressure on the service and their stocks.


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"Everything is getting more expensive. It's a struggle," she said.

Generally people would visit Hope Kete to help supplement weekly food needs. Now, some were using the service for their entire weekly shop, she said.

Turipa said they were seeing new faces every Wednesday. Working people were among those in queues that at times stretched for 50m.

Volunteer Charlotte Birkett said they were seeing a genuine need. They did not judge people or ask questions, and were humbled by the genuine letters and messages of appreciation they receive.

"It's sad that it has come to this for some people. It can be tough. For some people, this is what they will have for the week," she said.

Levin foodbank Hope Kete struggling to meet needs amid cost of living rises

"We don't judge. No questions, no names."

Hope Kete initially stocked foodonly, but was now providing some sanitary items too. A new refrigeration unit meant they could now stock frozen food.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, a list was handed out and items such as bread, rice or toilet paper were ticked off. People were then presented with a box that had been assembled inside.


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If a particular item had run out, the Hope Kete staff did their best to offer an alternative.

Birkett said she could only put the increased patronage down to the rising price of fuel in the past few weeks. Earlier this week petrol prices locally reached $3.50 and $2.44 a litre for petrol and diesel respectively, and it was having a flow-on effect on food.

In March 2012, local supermarket flyers had advertised brocolli for 88 cents a head, a block of butter for $3.59, a tray of 30 eggs for $5.79, and a kilo of premium mince for $10.99.

This week, some of those same items were advertised online at $3.49, $6.49, $11.49 and $24.99.

Since the Omicron outbreak, the Ministry of Social Development had engaged Hope Kete to coordinate the distribution of parcels for people or families who might be low on food while having to isolate after testing positive for Covid-19.

That stock was kept separate from their donated items, and distributed to 46addresses identified by the ministry this week, or through self-referral.


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The increased workload meant they were very busy, Monday to Friday. They had been blessed with good band of volunteers, but the Covid-19 outbreak had seen numbers dwindle.

"We are run off our feet," she said.

With school rolls dropping due to the Covid-19 outbreak, they were now working alongside local school lunch provider Libelle to take their excess food for redistribution.

Much of what they stocked came from an Auckland-based food network and was picked up from a sister organisation in Palmerston North called Zilch.

A handful of local businessesdonated food, while sometimes locals would drop off surplus vegetables from their home gardens, such as zucchini and marrow.