An initiative led by Central Southland College's head boy has involved the whole community in helping to fight poverty in the area.
Central Southland College head boy Alex Dykes organised a tinned food collection last week for the Let's Link Winton food bank. The Can-Do project was initiated as a way to support people in the community, but was also a catalyst to get the conversation going among young people about community service, helping others and acknowledging that there were people in Central Southland who needed a hand from time to time.
Alex said the idea came about after hearing that the Let's Link Winton food bank was struggling and looking to the community for support. Rather than having a mufti day with a gold coin donation, it was decided that a donation of canned goods would be more acceptable.
"Our community food bank is certainly well used, and it appears the need is growing. By this time last year six parcels were handed out, but this year that number has increased to 21."
From Central Southland College alone more than 600 cans were donated, with a value above $2000, Alex said.
Alex also reached out to primary schools in the area to get involved, and schools, including Winton, Limehills, Hillside, St Thomas Aquinas, Heddon Bush, Lochiel and Winton Kindergarten, all donated for the cause. The donations from the surrounding schools brought the total number of cans to around 1000.
Anyone could end up in need of a food parcel whether they'd been laid off work or other circumstances arose, he said.
Alex said he was blown away by the support the Can-Do initiative had received and was pleased with the quantity donated, with members of the Central Southland community even donating four legs of lamb.
"We always have really good turnouts with mufti day, each of these (cans) is one person who decided to give back to the community. It's humbling."
Alex said it was great just to be able to take the pressure off and help where they could.
Nationally, 100,000 children are living in severe poverty, with core basics being sacrificed as 40% of Kiwi families experience food insecurity.
Salvation Army head of welfare services Major Pam Waugh said in the past calendar year 60% of families requesting help with the basics were new to the organisation — an average of 336 new families every week.
"These are people who have never before used our services, and part of the 120,000 New Zealanders we already help every year."
Major Waugh said in 40% of families in poverty in New Zealand, at least one person was in full-time employment.
"The trouble is we're not always confronted with this poverty. Families may not look hungry but 40% of Kiwi families skip meals or cut back on food because they can't afford enough for the week."