A Community That Cares
Thousands of families sought support from The Society of St Vincent Paul foodbank in the Auckland region amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. It has meant numerous situations in which families have insufficient food to live, difficulties in acquiring sufficient food, and increases in social marginalization during isolation. The primary driver of food insecurity within Aotearoa continues to be economic insufficiency, as families in low-income brackets are increasingly unable to afford nutritional sources of food.
Throughout the Auckland region there were over 60 essential service volunteer drivers who signed up to support the Vinnies Auckland COVID-19 Response Foodbank Operation. These young men and women would operate from ‘satellite foodbanks’ to provide direct, local support to their communities. During the pandemic, the Vinnies team connected with families who, through no fault of their own, were without work and pay; or restricted from seeking support from extended family, friends or neighbours. Over time, it was found that this exhausted social support networks; often leaving families even more isolated during lockdown. A dedicated team of volunteers took up the responsibility of manaakitanga (support) through regular phone call check-ins to ensure families felt safe and held during these trying times.
It was evident through the stories of those who sought assistance that there were manifestations of hardship, tension and distress. In being present to these important expressions of vulnerability, it is telling that these issues are not independent of one another. To do so would obscure broader structural issues such as low wages, insecure work, inadequate and expensive housing as well as welfare retrenchment. The Society is deeply grateful for the ongoing support of organisations such as the Ministry For Primary Industries, Kiwi Harvest as well as generous families who have been able to donate bulk supplies of food to top up much needed foodparcels for families in need. Fresh produce in particular became a significant addition to families who could not access supermarkets or nearby shops during the lockdown period.
Food insecurity, therefore, is not an isolated phenomenon, but is very much intertwined with a wider range of insecurities and pressures on families. The combined efforts of volunteers and staff have proved invaluable in this instance to bolster the relational and charitable aid available to families. It has also allowed families to access necessary support networks so as to access sustainable sources of food.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul acknowledges the many men and women who dedicated their time throughout the lockdown to procure, pack and deliver foodboxes; coordinate foodbank satellites, donate, pray, manage administration and fundraising receipts as well as make the phone calls and emails to families needing check ins. Prior to the lockdown, the Auckland Operations 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. While the pandemic has been a challenge in ways that have often been unseen, it has been deeply moving to observe a community that has come together to support one another.