Covid-hit South Island charities given funding boost by (Foodstuffs South) Island Community Trust

When a Blenheim family received a small pack of mince in their emergency food parcel, their little boy asked if it was Christmas time again – that was the last time there had been any luxuries on the family’s dinner table.

Marlborough Foodbank manager Wynnie Cosgrove says stories like this show how one year on from the first Covid-19 lockdown, the number of Kiwis struggling in our communities continues to grow. As New Zealanders grapple with job losses, reduced hours and rising rent; putting food on the table becomes an everyday challenge and is placing significant demands on community services.

Foodstuffs (South Island) Community Trust responded to the initial Covid-19 crisis by reaching out to its members and staff, raising $600,000 for South Island charities and community organisations. Cosgrove says this support has made a huge impact in the Blenheim community.

“Support from the Trust means we've been able to buy extra food like meat and dairy products to help cope with the increased demand here in the Marlborough region,” says Cosgrove.

Foodstuffs supermarkets which include New World, PAK'nSAVE and Four Square work closely with their local foodbanks, delivering on their promise to be Here for NZ ensuring New Zealanders have access to healthy and affordable food.

New World Blenheim owner operator Melanie Shore says, like all Foodstuffs store owners, she's proud to support her community. This means celebrating with them when things are going well and helping out when times are tough. “We've always believed in supporting our community, and after the year New Zealand's had we've realised how essential our role in our community is. It's all about doing the right thing for people and helping out where we can.”

The Foodstuffs (South Island) Community Trust’s first round of funding has been distributed and the Trust is now looking for new recipients to receive a share of the remaining $280,000.

Justin Smith, Chair of Foodstuffs (South Island) Community Trust, says one year on, the ongoing impact of Covid-19 is widespread. With supermarkets all over the South Island, Foodstuffs is a part of almost every community, and supporting them to thrive is just one of the proactive ways the co-op demonstrates its commitment to be Here for NZ.

Cholmondeley Children’s centre Fundraising and marketing manager Tanya Cooke says, the pandemic has intensified the needs of families relying on support from the centre. The Trust’s support has helped us continue providing regular short-term and emergency respite care for children, aged from three to 12, during an incredibly challenging time.

“This is why the generous grant from the Foodstuffs (South Island) Community Trust is so valuable to us. It means we can continue our mission to make a meaningful and enduring difference in the lives of Canterbury children and their families.”

Community Networks Wanaka has seen a significant increase in demand for its services since New Zealand closed its borders last March, halting international tourism the area relies on.

Manager Kate Murray says many of the people seeking help haven’t accessed support services before. “I think some of the big challenges have included the threat of the unknown and the sense of uncertainty. A lot of people don’t know what is going to happen with their business or with their job.”

With international travel significantly impacting trade, challenges continue to rise for the Wanaka community. Pre-Covid, the community foodbank was distributing about 27 parcels a month, by the end of 2020 and into the first few months of this year, this number has increased to 60.

Foodstuffs (South Island) Community Trust has helped them to meet increased demand. “We have had to upscale the foodbank to meet the increase in need here in Wanaka and we had limited space to do that. This grant meant we can give people dried and canned food from the foodbank and a New World voucher for them to buy their own fresh produce, meat and dairy products.”

Murray says it’s positive for families to have some autonomy over choosing what they need, rather than having it decided for them.

As charities upscale their services to meet an increase in demand, Foodstuffs (South Island) Community Trust continues to support these organisations and the work they’re doing to help combat food insecurity.