Food Banks

Claire Trevett in the Herald reports:

When Labour’s social development spokeswoman Annette King asked about Salvation Army reports of high demand for food parcels, Mr Key responded by saying it was true that the global recession meant more people were on benefits.

“But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.

“And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.”

The PM is right that the majority of those on a benefit do not use foodbanks. Those who do use foodbanks probably fall into three categories:

  1. Those whose expenses regularly exceed their income – which probably does indicate a budget prioritisation issue
  2. Those who have a temporary one off high priority expense, such as medical bills (note special need grants are also available)
  3. Those who prefer free food to paying for food

I don’t know what proportion of foodbank goers fall into each category. But I am reminded of what happened when VUWSA set up both a fund (free cash) and a foodbank (free food) for students.

Year after year they would report that demand exceeded supply, and that this proved how more and more students were living in poverty, and hence why they needed to double the budget for said funds. And even after said doubling, the following year they would again run out of free money and free food. And again they would declare this proved how more and more students were living in poverty.

My theory was simpler. My theory was simply that students like free money and free food.

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