Auckland’s food insecurity crisis: why we need to care

Uncovering the impact of food insecurity in those using foodbanks.


Deeply moved by the hundreds queuing for a Christmas food parcel at the Auckland City Mission a couple of years ago, Helen Robinson, the Mission’s General Manager Social Services, knew she had to find out more about food insecurity and wellbeing for people accessing foodbanks.

“I had never seen so much need and desperation for food in one place at one time. Hundreds of people were queuing each day - sometimes for hours – because quite simply they had no other way to provide food for themselves and their families at Christmas time. It left an indelible mark on my soul,” says Ms Robinson.

“I went home and got online, only to find there was very little current information about food insecurity. There was even less about the impact of food insecurity on people’s emotional and psychological wellbeing.”

This led to Helen enrolling in the University of Auckland’s Master of Social and Community Leadership (MSCL), a new degree designed for people who want to lead, innovate and evaluate for social change.

As part of her Masters, Helen surveyed Mission clients. “Women, Māori and Pasifika bear the burden. Probably the most food insecure person in New Zealand today is a mother and that mother is single.

“On average, people accessing foodbank services in Auckland run out of food at least once a week. They don’t have the money and they’re stressed. They are united by a lack of income versus expenditure, particularly when it comes to housing.”

Helen’s Masters research also identified links between food insecurity and wellbeing. “Food insecurity reduces wellbeing and predicts lower psychological wellbeing because people are worrying about whether they can put food on the table. It’s also a significant indicator of distress.”

Dr Kelsey Deane from the University’s Faculty of Education and Social Work says, “It’s inspiring to work with students like Helen who pursue research-based degrees because of a deep drive and commitment to produce positive social change for marginalised communities.”

Helen says we need to know more about long-term food insecurity, income and benefit levels need to rise, and housing need to be genuinely affordable. “We have enough food to feed everyone; we need to learn to share resources so that we all have enough.

The Auckland City Mission is partnering with other agencies in other centres to repeat the survey at a national level, with the results available November.

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