The Tauranga Community Foodbank has been supporting families and individuals in the Tauranga area with emergency food assistance for 31 years.
Carefully considered grocery parcels provide four days’ worth of meals, with dietary requirements and other relevant needs catered to.
The local charity collaborates with social service organisations across the region to ensure wrap-around support is provided to people in need of wider assistance.
“Our goal is to be in every corner,” says Tauranga Community Foodbank manager Nicki Goodwin. “We connect with more than 90 referral agents in the area, so if someone pops up and needs some help, we are just a phone call away.”
At the end of 2022, the Foodbank opened a grocery store within their warehouse to support clients who may need more regular food assistance.
Clients are referred by financial mentors through Bay Financial Mentors, a budget advisory service.
The store works on a points system, with each grocery item given a point value. A client is allocated a certain number of points to spend per shop depending on how many people are living in their household.
According to Nicki, the new initiative has been positively received by the community, with most people who are working with a financial mentor choosing to use the store rather than receive Foodbank’s pre-packed grocery parcel.
“In the store, people spend their points on what they need, so that they can cook meals they know and like. They can use their own abilities and autonomy.
“What we’re finding is, in the first instance people might use all their points because they’re re-stocking. They’re often in a situation where they have got down to nothing. Then, on their future visits, they’re actually taking less and less because they’ve already topped up the pantry and household staples.
People can receive this support as often as their situation requires it, but each referral must come from an approved financial mentor.
“It’s not about helping someone for life,” says Nicki. “It’s about giving people the tools, resources, and support to not need our services anymore.
“The goal of the store is that the money the person has saved towards groceries is instead able to go towards another purpose. So, it might be rental fees, car repairs, health appointments, etc. And then they’re managed by the financial mentor to make sure that is being achieved.
“A lot of people are in situations beyond their control. They haven’t mismanaged anything; it’s just the difference between income and expenditure. There’s no fat left in the budget.”
Like many whānau, Tauranga Foodbank is also facing increasing cost-of-living pressures.
“We understand the challenges our community are facing because we’re facing them too,” says Nicki.
“Our lease has increased, and food costs are soaring. If we provide the same level of support this year as we did in 2022, our meat bill will be $67,000. And that’s just sausages and chicken. Even at a discounted rate, we spend about $26,000 on eggs.”
Tauranga Foodbank relies on grants and donations to be able to operate, says Nicki.
“The funding we receive from grants is used for operational costs, whereas money donated by members of the community is used to purchase food – we are able to do this because amazing organisations like TECT help us with our operating costs.”
TECT Trustee Peter Farmer says funding initiatives or organisations that support the most vulnerable people in our community is a priority for the Trust.
“The Tauranga Community Foodbank plays an essential role in our community by distributing immediate, emergency grocery assistance to families and individuals experiencing food insecurity.
“Its new service, the store, is an exciting concept because it not only offers more regular support, but it also empowers clients as they are able to use their autonomy to select their own food parcel items while receiving wider support from a financial mentor. We’re pleased to see it is progressing well.”
To learn more about Tauranga Community Foodbank, visit: https://taurangafoodbank.co.nz/