Photo: Whakatōhea Manaaki Triage Foodbank based out of Te Pou Oranga o Whakatōhea.
The Eastern Bay of Plenty town of Ōpōtiki is being impacted by the third wave of COVID-19 and the arrival of holidaymakers flocking to the coast this summer.
The town has only one supermarket that serves the many whānau from Ōpotiki to Whangaparaoa (Cape Runaway), and the shelves are empty due to the holiday rush: no bread, flour, eggs, etc.
General manager of Whakatu Whananga Trust, Mandy Walker says, "Our community's population increases by two or three times more each summer, with large numbers of families coming home. We have also noticed a larger number than usual of people traveling through and putting pressure on our local supermarket, of which we only have one."
There's been a big influx of whānau reaching out for support as they isolate, says Whakatōhea Manaaki Triage, Foodbank manager Hohepa Hei.
“We've been averaging about 30 to 40 Kai packs a week, both consisting of COVID packs, which are supplied for every individual in the household, with a supply of food that will last the whole seven days of isolation, currently we are one of 2 foodbanks, Whakaatu Whānaunga Trust being the other that supports the Ōpōtiki community," he says.
"We are receiving between 6 and 8 notifications per day, some directly from whanau and some from GP clinics. The highest number we have had in one day was 12. With 2 house holds of 12 and 1 of 18," said Walker.
The kai packs consist of all your essential foods that whānau require, such as flour and sugar, which can be problematic because there are limits on how much a person can purchase. The foodbank workers are having to buy the essentials like flour and sugar in bulk before portioning into snap lock bags.
“Meat comes from the supermarket. However, Te Whakatōhea also contributes beasts from our farm, and then we get them professionally processed, and then we distribute that out amongst Whānau. We've recently been able to obtain venison thanks to some of the ratification projects," says Hohepa.
“Another issue we face during the holiday season is a large number of visitors to our region. We're having to continuously outsource our food stocks to places like Tauranga, Rotorua, and Hamilton so that we alleviate any additional strain on our local food supplies."
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council's foodbanks are now $4000 better off because the council decided to donate to foodbanks this year instead of sending Christmas cards. A total of $16,000 was donated to the Tauranga and wider Bay of Plenty foodbanks. Kawerau, Rotorua, Ōpōtiki, and Whakatāne benefited as well.
Foodstuffs is one of New Zealand's largest grocery retailers and distributors made up of two separate regionally-based, owner-operated cooperatives (North Island and South Island).
They have given a statement on behalf of New World Ōpōtiki saying: "This time of year we do see an increase in demand in our stores in popular holiday destinations like Ōpōtiki. Our stores plan for this, although sometimes how much demand increases can be difficult to predict, depending on whether the sun shines or if it pours. There’s also been challenges with the supply of bread and eggs in the last few days and our teams are working closely with both industries to smooth supply and get things back to normal as fast as we can.
"Stores in the Foodstuffs co-operatives have held price increases to customers below inflation, and below supplier cost increases for seven months in a row, and we’ll continue to fight against inflation to help ease pressure on household budgets into 2023. We keep prices down by buying well, running our business in the most efficient way possible and we’re also helping customers find the best value in-store with things like New World’s Everyday Low Price ticket. When it comes to fresh produce, buying what’s in season and what there’s lots of, is a good tip for the budget as it means you get more bang for your buck.
"Foodstuffs have made a commitment to be HereforNZ and part of that commitment is a promise that New Zealanders have access to healthy affordable food. Every New World and PAK’nSAVE has a partnership with a food rescue, foodbank, or social supermarket - a place where people can shop with dignity in a supermarket environment. Foodstuffs North Island have partnered with five community organisations to open social supermarkets and have made a commitment to open more social supermarkets in 2023."