Families forced to chain fridges to make food last until Christmas

There are now just 20 days until Christmas and this year, the financial pressure on many families is greater than ever before.

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Tens of thousands of food parcels are being prepared. Source: 1 NEWS

That's according to organisations on the front line, which say some people are even padlocking fridges to ensure groceries last.

“That's not because they're not wanting to feed their kids but they're needing to make what little food they have, last” Mangere Budgeting Services' Darryl Evans told 1 NEWS.

Kathleen Paraha says she gets about $120 a week and after her bills are paid, she's left with about $20 for groceries.

“It's not a very nice Christmas this year,” she says.

She volunteers with Auckland Action Against Poverty and says, “I've never seen so many homeless people, it's just, it's really heart-breaking watching them."

Yesterday, Mangere Budgeting Services staff had 17 calls for food within the first 15 minutes of being open.

“Demand this year is going to be greater than ever before,” Evans says.

“Not only are they worried about food on the table, presents under the tree, we're also hearing families are already concerned about back-to-school costs in February.

“There's been an exponential growth not only in my food bank, but in other food banks in South Auckland and across the country."

His organisation is compiling upwards of 750 food hampers this year and today 500 volunteers in Auckland, organised by Life Community, were helping pack thousands more.

The group is working with 440 community and government organisations to distribute a total of 32,000 Christmas food boxes nationwide.

They help to supplement breakfast, lunch and dinner for a family of four to six for a week.

“People know in a year like we've had, this is one way they're able to give back… and so many families that are doing it tough,” says Nick Edwards, Life Church’s community executive.

“It's a small way we can bring hope to the table this Christmas."

The initiative has fed more than 134,000 New Zealand families since it started in 2001.

“The need is growing, it's increased more than ever before,” Edwards says.

One volunteer 1 NEWS spoke to, Chris Young, has been packing boxes for 10 years.

“Just the fact you know, people are going to have a better Christmas because of what we’re doing is amazing,” he says.

Those helping at the event today were dancing and singing as they worked.

“It’s just a really great vibe of people doing something good for other people,” Young says.

Paraha told 1 NEWS she’s not seeking a food parcel: “Families with children need it more than I do.”

But she’s still hoping to make Christmas Day special.

“[I’ll] see if I can get some money together to buy me a roast for Christmas Day or something,” she says.