Love Soup treasurer Julie King with committee member Andrew Smallman. Photo / Supplied
Rising food prices are hitting household budgets hard – with one Rotorua food charity saying there has been a sharp increase in the number of people seeking help.
“Words are hard to describe it,” Love Soup treasurer Julie King told the Rotorua Daily Post.
“We’re in very difficult times. We’re dealing with working people, it’s not just unemployed.”
The news comes after Stats NZ released figures last week showing food prices were 8.9 per cent higher in August 2023 than in August 2022.
Prices for fruit and vegetables contributed the most to the overall monthly rise.
Fruit and vegetable prices increased 5.4 per cent in August 2023 compared to August 2022. In the year to July 2023, they increased 6.2 per cent.
The data showed kūmara were 234 per cent more expensive last month than the year before, with the per-kilo price increasing from $3.79 to $12.64.
The price of eggs rose by 59 per cent from $5.85 in August 2022 to $9.31 a year later.
King said Love Soup had distributed “spuds and carrots” to an estimated 200 people two weeks ago.
The organisation rescued 12 tonnes of food last month. On September 11, Love Soup won a Canon Oceania Award worth $15,000 to support its efforts.
“It’s just a fact that there’s so much food waste out there and there’s so many people needing food.”
King said she and her team rescued “ugly” produce such as potatoes that might have a speck of green or were too big for the roasting bag.
“It’s surprising what the market wants but there is food that gets rejected because it doesn’t fit with the marketing.
“We’re giving people the option to use the ugly, misshapen veges.”
King said Love Soup particularly needed more eggs.
“We would love to get eggs. We’d love to connect with suppliers and work alongside them. Sometimes there’s just one cracked egg in the dozen and the rest are fine.”
One solution to the hike in food prices was to encourage people to grow gardens and be more self-sufficient, she said.
Westbrook School’s Year 2 pupils are learning how to live sustainably by growing their own vegetable garden, with some of the produce being used for school lunches.
Westbrook is one of 10 schools across the country that have been given a share of $50,000 by Countdown’s Growing for Good grant.
The grant was awarded this month for ideas that addressed climate change and boosted sustainability in communities.
Westbrook School teacher Michaela Muncaster and her Year 2 class applied for the grant to buy composters and worm farms for the school vege garden.
Muncaster said her students were “really, really happy” to win.
“This week they’ve been putting the worm farms together. We’ve got three composters as well.”
Westbrook School has a corner of the grounds fenced off to grow native seedlings for planting by Utuhina Stream. The garden has since expanded to include fruit and citrus trees.
Soon, with the help of some hard work from Muncaster’s class, vegetables such as peas, beans and corn will be sprouting from the soil.
“We’ve just been preparing our garden bed the last week,” Muncaster said. “We’re also going to plant some gourd seeds.”
The aim was to use some of the produce to provide school lunches through KidsCan.
The other benefit, she said, was to encourage kids to love sustainable practices.
“They love digging around, finding worms, wearing their little gardening glove, and using their little spades to fill pots up.
“I think they get a sense of accomplishment from it as well. They’re natural learners and one of the best ways for them to learn is to explore.”
The garden helped students avoid waste by appreciating where food and vegetables came from.
“They appreciate the work and effort that goes into growing things, that it’s not just instant from the supermarket.
“And they learn that they can grow their own. They can be more sustainable.”
Maryana Garcia is a regional reporter writing for the Rotorua Daily Post and the Bay of Plenty Times. She covers local issues, health and crime.