According to social workers, planned benefit increases must be brought forwards to help meet basic costs for the growing number of people struggling to afford basic necessities.
The Salvation Army says the government must speed up a benefit increase already planned for April next year to help people put food on the table now.
Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit director Ian Hutson said food is a basic need and should be affordable in a country that produces so much of it.
But working people who had never needed charity before were lining up for food parcels as Covid-19 continued to hit household budgets and food costs rose. Many people had lost work and income due to Covid 19, and the financial strain was impacting those on low incomes and beneficiaries.
The Commerce Commission is carrying out a major review of the grocery sector, with a virtual conference continuing this week, ahead of its final report in March.
Work and Income supports used during the 2020 lockdowns had not been activated during this year’s lockdowns, a statement from the church said, which was leaving people without enough to get by.
“We are seeing threefold poverty: lack of food, electricity and internet access… these pressures come on top of continuing high housing costs in Auckland as well as other parts of the country.”
Manukau food bank worker Ronji Tanielu is a policy advisor for the Salvation Army and said it was clear more people were seeking help during the pandemic, and those who showed up were increasingly strained.
“Food costs in general are normally a challenge for beneficiaries anyway – they’re on low incomes – but for working class New Zealanders or those who’ve had jobs impacted by Covid it’s becoming more of a shock for them.
“We’re getting more and more people coming into our food bank who’ve never used our services before.”
Tanielu said the government had provided supports for more people during Covid-19 restrictions, but if people were struggling to afford their own food the real needs weren’t being met.