Responding to Families in Need
We would like to share with you how Vinnies Youth Auckland have mobilised and sought to support families affected by COVID-19 with food boxes and other essential needs. Prior to the pandemic, we were providing 120 food boxes a week. Since the COVID-19 lockdown, we have averaging 120 per day and to date have distributed well over 5,000 food boxes to families. The need is growing every day.
Hundreds of families across Auckland continue to bear the burdened reality of food insecurity in light of Covid-19. For many, this reality was being experienced long before the pandemic was realised in Aotearoa. Self-isolation has only added to its effects. The lockdown and disruptions in work, family relations and community support have shown the fragility of people’s access to essential food and services. The Society of St Vincent de Paul continue to see the effects of lost income related to accessing food, with many families informing us that they are unable to afford sufficient food due to limited financial resources.
Families are writing and ringing in through the night and early hours of the morning. The foodboxes provided are valued at $120 each and are personally delivered to their front doors by the strong team of about 30 Vinnies volunteer drivers. we are fortunate to have the assistance of Kiwharvest and Auckland Citymission food donations that allow us to supplement the foodboxes with extra food to cut costs and allow the re-allocation of money to the purchase of more bulk food supplies in.
We are grateful for the Auckland Catholic Diocese for their monetary support and also to MSD for supplementing some our Foodbank costs. To date VINNIES auckland have delivered food to over 1,500 families struggling as a result of the COVID-19 Lockdown. We know that in weeks to come this number will only increase as people live into unemployment, social isolation, and the temporary closing of many social services support networks. There has also been an increase in cases of domestic violence as well an increase of stress, anxiety and the break down of wellbeing including mental health.
This has necessitated a change in the way families are supported at this time. Not only do families need food at this time, they also need reassurance and journeying alongside. Many volunteers from various professional backgrounds have stepped up to lend a hand. From budgeters, social workers, dedicated phone operators; to packers, distributors and food bank operators, these young men and women are able to support hundreds of families across Auckland each day. Many have given their time and energy into ensuring families do not go without during the pandemic – the facility operating up to twelve hours a day, six days a week. The Society of St Vincent de Paul are thankful for these gifted, professional and enthusiastic team members.
A Vinnies foodbank essential worker reflects:
“It was getting dark as more people lined the road some pushing up to the truck with outstretched hands asking for a box of food….”Today we went into a large caravan park with a convoy of two Vinnies foodtrucks and a car to deliver large foodboxes of fresh produce, meat, milk, cereal, yoghurt etc to over 240 flat units and caravans where families and individuals lived.We were told there was a huge need in that place and many were not able to access food support as many had become accustomed to putting up with not having much. Many didn’t have the resilience or resource to seek support. Many were marginalized and socially excluded. Not having transport or wifi or credit or ability to read and write, or the confidence to ring an 0800 helpline became a huge obstacle. Our vehicles moved slowly on two different routes and stopped intermittently as team members on the back worked hard to unload and distribute parcels to each unit with the park management. It was getting dark as more people lined the road some pushing up to the truck with outstretched hands asking for a box. We had to ask many a time that they please move back.”
“It was heart breaking to see many of these people were elderly and some seemed quite physically unwell. We weren’t allowed to hand the boxes over for safety reasons but they were determined for fear of missing out.Some tried to lift the heavy 12kg+ boxes out of our arms to be helpful. Other succeeded others didn’t. I became conscious that several people had touched my arms and were right in my face even though I was wearing PPE gear. Others so grateful wanted to shake hands or pat me on the back. It was surreal. It was like a scene from the movies.We ended up having to run and carry the boxes to quite a few houses as the occupants were too old or too frail and it was safe for us to do so to keep the distance. It was a major workout and we were puffing hard with faces dripping with sweat trying to keep up with it all.When we finally finished I came away feeling quite sad and wanting to cry, confused, angry and affected by what I had just experienced and seen…also fired up, and full of empathy, compassion and hope for these people and my team members. I was also grateful for my family and what I have…Lord I’m out of my depth …show me the way”