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Church agencies aim for zero hunger

Christian social service agencies in Aotearoa New Zealand have launched a ‘Zero Hunger’ network with a challenge to the nation to end food poverty.

Taonga News  |  24 Jan 2019

A new network of Christian social service agencies has set a challenge to meet the second UN Sustainable Development Goal of ‘Zero Hunger'.

In 2019, the Zero Hunger network is calling on concerned New Zealanders to join with them to help develop permanent policy changes to end food insecurity.

The urgent call for a long-term solution to periodic hunger comes as the number of New Zealanders using emergency food services continues to rise. Clients coming into churches’ social service sites needing food parcels report they are not managing to meet basic costs month by month, placing them in deepening deficit. 

“The first costs to go are food – our clients say they make do and ensure the children are fed before the adults, however we know this is not a good solution.” – said the Salvation Army in the NZCCSS Vulnerability Report as far back as June 2016.

The last official survey of food insecurity in New Zealand (the 2008/09 Adult Nutrition Survey) classified 7.3% of households as having high food insecurity (pg. 264) .

That meant that across the 1.4 million households (averaging 2.7 people per household) that existed in 2009 there were 236,000 New Zealanders regularly facing hunger. Today food parcel numbers are still increasing and food is going out to low-income workers as well as those between jobs,

“We have an increasing number of people accessing our services who are in employment, but struggling to make ends meet.” said a Salvation Army spokesperson in the NZCCSS 2016 Vulnerability report.

Families needing food support also suffer flow-on effects seen by Zero Hunger network agencies, most notable are impacts on mental and physical health, relationships, children’s and adult educational achievement and the ability to be securely housed. 

“For many who experience regular food shortage, a sense of shame and whakamā (shame or embarassment) at not being able to feed your children leads to children being kept home from school, contributing to an inter-generational lack of educational achievement.” reported Zero Hunger network members on their website,

Christian agencies continue to make compassionate charitable responses to hunger, but they know this also builds a level of dependency on the charitable system. However, they point out that it is not only struggling families that rely on their charity, but New Zealand society as a whole.

Dr Winsome Parnell, Honorary Associate Professor of Nutrition at Otago University and a national expert in food insecurity, agrees that unpacking the structural reasons for food insecurity shows responsibility spreads wider than the individuals who are going hungry. 

“It is very uncomfortable to have 'blame' for Food Insecurity placed 100% on the shoulders of those suffering from it, as though it were a 'fault' or solely a result of consistently poor decision making,” she said.

Anglican City Missions in Auckland and Wellington have added their voice to the Zero Hunger campaign alongside the Salvation Army and the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services – whose 213 members are made up of Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian service organisations.

Three “Zero Hunger” Hui will be held to strategise towards ending food poverty in Aotearoa: in Christchurch (12 March 2019), Auckland (14 March 2019), and Wellington( 21 March 2019).

The hui will bring together New Zealanders who have lived through food insecurity alongside supporters, researchers and strategists from the NGO sector, social enterprise, local and national government, the philanthropic sector, commercial food distributors, academia, corporate sector, media and others, to investigate permanent food security solutions for the nation.

To register for the Christchurch, Auckland or Wellington ‘Zero Hunger’ Hui, please click here.