Food Banks bank on us
Rt.W.Bro. Colin Weir, a Past Master of Lodge St. John 461 in Milton, handed the delighted Balclutha Food Bank Co-ordinator, Stephanie Bowden, a cheque for 500-dollars.
At the annual meeting of the OMCT’s Community Grants Committee in May this year, the plight of the Otago regions’ Food Banks again featured prominently.
It is a sad fact that, in a first-world country like New Zealand, poor and disadvantaged families still find that they have no option other than to turn to charities such as food banks merely to enable them to feed their children, and this year in Otago thousands of families found themselves facing this demeaning prospect. And just who are these families? Well, according to the Salvation Army’s Dunedin Food Bank, they include a wide spectrum of the populace, including those in full-time work, as for these folk the cost of housing is a crippling financial challenge. A spokesman for the Salvation Army, David McKenzie, explained that each year, in Dunedin alone, ‘the Sallies’ assist a minimum of 1,200 struggling families, while the Christmas period “comprehensively swells” that number. Thus, the number of people in work, yet still requiring food parcels, was a growing concern, “It has usually taken a lot to get them here, but they are desperate,” he said.
Not wishing to put Bro. Colin Weir out, Tuapeka Combined Churches’ Food Bank coordinator, Peter Ballentine travelled to Milton to collect the OMCT’s Grants Committee’s cheque.
Without the assistance of its group of unsung volunteers, the internal workings of any food bank would come to a grinding halt.
Salvation Army Dunedin Food Bank Co-ordinator, Gail Geels, explained that through the year her organisation co-operated with the city’s other main food banks – Presbyterian Support Family Works and St. Vincent de Paul – to ensure that supply needs were covered. In wintertime, items that could be used to make warm, hearty, winter meals were in high demand, including canned vegetables, pasta sauces, Just-Add (meat) sauces, and tins of soup. “Families are also in need of food for school lunches, with some parents keeping children at home because they have nothing to give them,” Ms Geels said. “Thankfully, we have some schools in the city who are now providing breakfast for the children.”
Less well-off families are being hit hard in the pocket by high rent, expensive power bills, high-interest loans, and the general cost of living. “We frequently hear of parents going without meals themselves in order give their children enough to eat,” Sallies spokesman Jono Bell informed us. “We are doing our best to relieve some of that pressure through our programmes – such as our food banks, financial budgeting initiatives for families, and positive lifestyle programmes.”
The three main groups that operate the food banks in the region are: The Salvation Army, Presbyterian Support Otago, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, but we must not leave out the various groups of combined churches that also make their mark. We should all praise these wonderful people for the superlative, yet largely unsung, work that they do within our community.
This year the OMCT’s South Otago sub-district, organised three 500-dollar donations for the food banks in Milton, Balclutha and Lawrence, all of whom were profoundly thankful. The cheques were handed over by Rt.W.Bro. Colin Weir, Past Master of Lodge St. John No. 461, Milton.
While at the official OMCT Grants Awards presentation held at the Dunedin Masonic Centre in June, the co-ordinator of the Milton Combined Churches’ Food Bank, June Caldwell, told the assembly, “Monetary donations from organisations like the Freemasons are vital to us. They allow us the flexibility to directly purchase food or other essential non-food items that may be missing from our inventory.”
It was noted in The Star newspaper that the food banks in Cromwell, Alexandra, Wanaka and Queenstown had also received donations from the Otago Masonic Charitable Trust. Alexandra Community Pantry Co-ordinator, Pam Hughes described the arrival of the cheque as being “a Godsend”, as the Community Pantry’s resources had become so depleted.
The efforts of the OMCT to help tackle the problem of poverty in Otago, and we will be the first to admit, are a drop in the ocean when compared to the hundreds of thousands of contributions that come via supermarket, church, social club, school, and the many other ‘Food Share’ drives that occur around the country. Not forgetting, of course, those caring individuals that, on a weekly basis, ‘give a little something to someone they don’t actually know.’ So, what should an individual donate to a food bank? What are the most useful items? The answer contains some surprises…
What should I donate to a food bank?
Otago’s food bank organisations explained that the contributions that were of most value to them were donations of non-perishable goods, such as: cooking oil, ready-made sauces of the ‘Just-Add’ (meat/chicken) variety, canned fish, chicken or meat (such as corned beef or Spam), dried-goods, pasta, rice, peanut butter, biscuits, muesli bars and items for children’s lunch boxes, breakfast cereals, canned fruit, tinned soups, coffee and tea, powdered milk, tooth paste, toiletries, cleaning products, baby food, nappies, and treats for Christmas.
Spare a thought
So, when you do your next big shop, budget ahead and buy a little additional ‘something’ to deposit into one of the food bank collection baskets. You can be certain that it will reach, and bring a smile to the face of, a deserving ‘somebody’ who now knows that someone else actually cares.
Items most in demand by food banks are not what you might think. ‘Just-Add’ (meat) sauces, cooking oil, peanut butter, muesli bars, baby food and nappies all rank highly.
Salvation Army Food Bank:
Presbyterian Support Otago:
Society of St. Vincent de Paul:
Contact the OMCT:
What is Freemasonry:
The Food Banks of Otago always require volunteers, so if you think that you give just a little of your spare time, contact one of the these worthy organisations.
A list of websites appears above.