New Zealand's most prominent not-for-profit food supply and distribution organisation, the New Zealand Food Network (NZFN), marks World Food Day 2023 by unveiling a 12-month fundraising campaign. This comes after its bi-annual Food Hub Survey revealed a 20 percent increase in demand for food support between January to June 2023 compared to July to December 2022.
The survey canvassed 51 of NZFN's partner Food Hubs about the current demand for food support. On average, 36 percent of the Food Hubs' monthly recipients have never needed to seek their support before.
Nearly all (98 percent) of the Food Hubs stated the rising cost of living as a top reason for recipients seeking food support, followed by the low household or individual income due to low-paying jobs (65 percent) and unexpected bills or expenses (53 percent).
A new reason emerged from this survey edition: the impact of flooding and Cyclone events (27 percent). NZFN was instrumental in the Cyclone Gabrielle relief efforts, especially for Food Hubs in Gisborne and Hawkes Bay, two of the most impacted regions. Food Hubs rated NZFN's ability to provide timely support during crises and natural disasters like these at 8.7/10 (one being Poor and ten being Excellent).
In response to the findings, NZFN's 'Pitch In' campaign gives communities grappling with the cost-of-living crisis a lifeline. For the next 12 months, NZFN is calling on food businesses and the public to pitch in with financial and bulk food donations to (virtually) fill Auckland's iconic Eden Park with meals. Every time the pitch is filled from one end to the other, NZFN will provide 100,000 meals to Kiwis in need.
Comedian Leigh Hart joins former Rugby World Champion Piri Weepu, Professional Rugby Player Sam Slade and award-winning Special Olympics athlete Grace Payne to support the cause.
"Times are tough for many families, and I'm stoked to support the incredible work of the New Zealand Food Network," said Hart.
"We know Kiwis love to measure things by the paddock system - quantifying any big number by how many rugby fields it fills, so I'm excited to see how many times we can fill Eden Park with meals for families in need."
NZFN Chief Executive Gavin Findlay said its latest survey results highlight the immense financial pressure many New Zealanders face and the growing demand for NZFN's services.
"We launched NZFN during the pandemic, and since then, we've seen the demand skyrocket in just three years. People are struggling to make ends meet, and our survey illustrates the very sobering reality that many Kiwis cannot put enough food on the table," said Findlay.
Food Hubs reported that they distributed 1,296,917 kgs of food per month to the community, including kai from NZFN, donations, and other suppliers. That's approximately 7,781,502 kgs from January to June this year.
Yet, they rated their ability to meet the current level of demand at 3.15, a drop from 3.45 in the last survey. That's why NZFN is determined to support where it can, with the survey finding almost half (46 percent) of the food distributed by Food Hubs was supplied by NZFN. NZFN supplies 100 percent of their stock for a handful of them.
NZFN is calling on public members to help and donate money so that the organisation can purchase food for Kiwis in need. Findlay said that he and the team see first-hand how much of a difference this support makes for those doing it tough, and 100 percent of the money donated will go directly towards getting more food for NZFN's partner Food Hubs.
"Together with our food donors and the support of Leigh, Piri, Sam and Grace, we can make a real difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Kiwi families."
To make a bulk food or financial donation, visit pitchin.org.nz to learn more and see how the New Zealand Food Network gets food to where it's needed most.