When the Covid-19 pandemic hit New Zealand and we went into our first lockdown in 2020, the number of food parcels that Hamilton City foodbank were giving out increased by 500%. Many New Zealanders experienced job loss, reduced incomes and higher household numbers due to travel restrictions. The Salvation Army saw a huge increase in need for support during this difficult time.
Aimee Kipara, Hamilton Community Development Manager says, “the Hamilton foodbank went from giving out about 50-60 food parcels a week, to our busiest week being well over 300.” Aimee says the numbers continue to be high, at least double what they were pre-covid last year.
Earlier this year, The Foodbank Project underwent further development to support the increasing demand. This has enabled foodbanks to see exactly which items have been donated and allows them to order precisely what their foodbank needs. Aimee says, prior to the redesign of the ordering system, they would sometimes have lots of one item but not much of another. “We think it’s amazing, it has been so helpful to us and planning for our foodbank, basically we don’t really run out of things because we are able to select items as needed, we love it, we are so grateful.”
The demand at Christmas time increases even more. “Christmas is a really challenging time for so many people, everyone is experiencing a lot at the moment,” says Aimee. Each year at Christmas the Hamilton Salvation Army run the Christmas loft. Families are invited to come in and choose presents for their children. Aimee says, “it’s really empowering for people to be able to choose for their families.” This year, due to the uncertainty of things, the Hamilton foodbank, among others, have decided to make the Christmas loft a drive through experience.
There will be Christmas music playing and the outside of the Mission Centre will be decked out with Christmas decorations. Aimee says, “we just want people to have a really special experience when they come through. I’m really excited that we can help share the Christmas joy with others and it’s also a blessing to be able to do that when you have the support of the community helping make it happen for others.”
Receiving support from The Salvation Army at Christmas can relieve a lot of the stress that people are feeling. Aimee says, “having support at Christmas time means people don’t have to worry about food for the day, they’ll know that their children and whanau will share good memories and a beautiful meal.”
The Hamilton City foodbank is now in the process of changing its model to a social supermarket, which will be up and running in 2022. It will replicate the customer experience of a supermarket, allowing for clients to choose what they need for themselves. Aimee says, “we wanted to create an open and welcoming space for everyone and enhance the opportunities that people have. We want to empower others and we want people to have a really positive experience.”
Aimee says “The Foodbank Project is a great way of reaching people in need in the community, and it’s so easy to do. What I love about it is because it’s an online tool you can be anywhere in the world and make a donation and know that it is going towards a local foodbank, helping those who need it the most. If you are able to, anything helps to make a difference and we do see that here, we are extremely grateful, thank you.”