Mike Chapman, CEO of Horticulture New Zealand, has stated that about a third of New Zealand fruit and vegetables are imported. A large proportion of that is bananas. New Zealand’s vegetable production was down 20%-30% during the lockdown as farmers markets and independent fruit and vegetable retailers could not operate or sell their produce, he said.
Being locked down at home in March and April with markets, small vendors and producers, as well as takeaways and eateries closed, New Zealand consumers had to rely on supermarkets for all their food. Supermarkets managed to maintain the food supply although panic buying depleted some goods, such as flour and toilet paper.
The advice to order groceries online seemed like a good idea, but the systems couldn’t cope with the floods of orders.
However, for the food-insecure finding affordable food was more difficult and demand for food parcels escalated. Although Dunedin did not have the extreme demand experienced in Auckland, local foodbanks said there was a significant increase in people seeking food parcels, many of whom had not sought their help before.
David McKenzie, communities ministries manager at the Dunedin Salvation Army, said Dunedin’s needs were different to those in Auckland.
"It may be to do with the size of the city. Folks we often see are used to living hand-to-mouth, and anecdotally there were not things to spend money on anyway," he told odt.co.nz. "With restaurants and takeaways closed, some people with no cooking skills or equipment had problems, especially single men whose only cooked meal of the day might be fish and chips. Some people only have a microwave."
The DCC, local foodbanks and food rescue organisation KiwiHarvest, worked together to co-ordinate the distribution. KiwiHarvest secured freezer space and distributed the food.
"It’s been amazing the quantity of food coming in. We couldn’t supply the demand if we didn’t have that. Octacan was a huge help as well. It just amazes me with Covid and how everyone is struggling and people still come through the door, wanting to give something back. Some people came in and say, ‘You helped me a year ago and I want to give something back’. It’s really lovely," Ms Warrington said.
However, the foodbanks and other social organisations are anticipating a growth in demand for food parcels in the next few months. The winter energy supplement finished at the end of September and wage subsidies are winding down.