Discover the shocking deprivation and inequality in affluent suburbs that drives Driveline’s work with Good Works Trust food bank on the Shore…
The affluent suburbs of Auckland’s North Shore evoke images of sweeping ocean views and luxury homes. But behind the curtain of wealth, many families struggle in grim poverty unknown to their neighbours.
Sophie Gray, operations manager for the Good Works Trust food bank, has witnessed the shocking contrast firsthand.
“I once did a food parcel delivery where I drove down a driveway between two beautiful $3 million villas and discovered a dystopian village of absolutely grim accommodation hidden down the back that you’d never know existed,” she recalls.
“I’ve jogged past those villas and never looked down the right of way between them, so I had no idea what was tucked down behind there.”
The emergency food parcel was being delivered to a solo mother living in a dilapidated block of flats. With the front door jammed shut by the slowly collapsing building, Sophie had to carefully pick her way to the back, noting…
“It was a really grim collection of 1950s flats. The window jambs were seized, the doors didn’t work, they were rundown and terrifying. You would never know that our beautiful North Shore has housing that looks like this.”
Inside, despite not having a stick of furniture except a sad homemade Christmas tree, the woman had cleaned immaculately. “You could have eaten off the floor,” Sophie says.
Her daughters happily pranced in the sunshine, innocent to their deprivation. The excitement when they discovered a donated packet of Tim Tams in the food parcel left Sophie with an indelible memory.
Fighting Invisible Need
Many assume the prosperous North Shore suburbs are immune to hardship. However, Sophie has discovered an extensive network of unmet need hidden behind the facade of affluence.
“There’s an awful lot of privilege here on the Shore, but something people don’t realise is that only 27% of beneficiaries on the Shore, according to MSD stats, are Maori and Pacifica,” she explained. “We’ve got people of every race and nationality, so the need on the Shore looks different to other parts of Auckland.”
Mental health issues, lack of transportation and disability are just some of the drivers of food insecurity Sophie sees. Stigma and isolation prevent many from seeking help, even as they live next door to affluence.
“I delivered a food parcel a couple of weeks ago in the East Coast Bays. The referral had come through a social service agency and they got the address wrong. When I rolled up to this beautiful, immaculate house with jaw-dropping ocean views in a lovely street, I knew straight away it was the wrong address,” she recalled.
“I worked out what part of the address was wrong. The correct address was five doors down the street. It was a rental property and the recipient was in a very poor state. The owners of the first house would have no idea of the quiet desperation going on five doors down the road.”
Care with Dignity
Good Works Trust receives referrals from over 50 social service agencies across Auckland, ensuring recipients genuinely require support. Sophie explained how the food parcels provide short-term relief with dignity…
“We provide what’s defined as the ‘New Zealand standard food parcel’. It contains fresh produce and fruit, meat, dairy products and a range of ambient foods to enable people to feed their household for 3-4 days including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, school-suitable foods, and so on.”
Customising each parcel to fit specialised dietary needs gives recipients control over meeting their family’s needs. As Sophie put it…
“We do a whole combination of those sometimes because families being referred to us, sometimes through hospital providers, might have really complex dietary needs. Sometimes we do soft food. We’ve just done one today that’s a non-cooked food parcel for somebody who is a rough sleeper.”
Nourishing Young Minds
Among the Trust’s initiatives, the school lunch kits have an especially large impact. For just $14 per week, Good Works Trust provides a local child in need with five days of sandwich ingredients, snacks and fruit.
As Sophie explained, the simple act of providing a lunch can have cascading benefits…
“The school lunch kits are enormously important, but it costs us $7,000 a term. Due to a lack of funds we’ve had to put them on hiatus this year. It would be amazing if we could find $7,000 per term to keep those school lunch kits going.
“Providing school lunches reduces demand on emergency food parcels. It means that families may not need an emergency food parcel, they might not be ringing the CAB or Oranga Tamariki or Plunket, they may not reach the point of crisis.”
When they first started providing school lunch kits, Sophie discovered to her horror that kids were coming to school with their sandwiches rolling around naked in the school bag because the family couldn’t even afford something to put them in.
Sistema came to the rescue and donated 150 lunch boxes last year to solve that problem.
“It really highlights the level of deprivation when they can’t even afford something to put the sandwich in and it’s just sitting there naked in the school bag,” says Sophie.
Teachers have shared their gratitude for the lunch kits, which ensure students have the fuel to learn.
For secondary students focused on exams, a rumbling stomach can destroy concentration. As Sophie stated…
“High schoolers are going into exams with their stomachs rumbling. There are high schoolers heading into exam season now and their dinner might have been inadequate and they haven’t had breakfast and they won’t have lunch, and they have to concentrate to get through their exams.
“That’s the reality of child poverty in New Zealand. It’s not just little children without a raincoat and without breakfast, it’s teenagers doing their NCEA.”
A Hand Up, Not a Handout
After families receive their initial food parcels, Good Works Trust transitions them to greater independence through a social supermarket program. The social service agency relationships remain in place to wrap additional support around each family. As Sophie said…
“We transition them to a social supermarket model where they pay a small within-their-means koha and they get to choose the items they get. It gives them agency, Tino Rangitiratanga, some dignity and control around the situation.
“Families can use that service up to 12 times. The idea is that it gives them a hand up rather than a handout.”
Good Works Trust: Bringing Christmas Joy
Christmas highlights inequality, but also brings out abundant generosity. The Trust’s annual Christmas program ensures that families with nothing can still celebrate Christmas morning. As Sophie shared…
“We’ve been given a load of lovely Christmas stockings but we don’t have a gift sponsor this year, so I’m hoping the North Shore community will donate enough small things that we can fill those Christmas stockings so that every one of those children will have something to open on Christmas Day.”
Generous corporate supporters like Driveline make it possible for Good Works Trust to reach struggling families across the Shore.
Sophie vividly recalls the day she picked up the phone in desperation and was connected to Lance Manins, Driveline’s CEO…
“I Googled and Driveline’s name came up. I walked into the lobby and you could call it a desperation pray… I just went something along the lines of ‘HELP’ and picked up the phone and dialled Driveline and just told Lance what we do and what we needed. I vividly remember hearing myself saying, ‘It’s not even like we need a new vehicle, we just need a free one.’ And to my enormous surprise, he said we might be able to help you out.”
True to their word, Driveline sourced, customised, and delivered a delivery van perfectly suited to the Trust’s needs, along with a fuel card.
As Sophie put it, the van is their “kai waka for the Shore” that transformed their outreach capabilities. She said…
“The van that Driveline provides for us has changed what we are able to do in ways that it’s not even possible to articulate.”
Help Feed a Local Child
Local businesses can make an immediate difference in struggling families’ lives by funding a school lunch kit…
- Every $560 provides one year’s worth of sandwich ingredients, snacks and fruit to feed one North Shore school kid living in child poverty five days a week.
- Even $140 for one term of guaranteed lunches reduces a family’s reliance on food parcels and helps children focus in class rather than worrying about an empty stomach.
Join the Good Works Trust in nourishing our community’s future generation. Visit their Givealittle page to fund a lunch kit today.
You can also donate directly to their bank account…
- Good Works Trust – ASB: 12-3035-0762738-01
Or email Sophie via the form on this page: https://gwt.org.nz/contact