Waikato News by Peter Tiffany – 27 August 2020

Mike Rolton is general manager of a busy organisation that is expanding to meet a growing demand and which today opened a big new outlet in Hamilton for suppliers and clients from across the region.

You might say business is booming the length and breadth of Waikato; from Raglan out west to the east coast and from Huntly in north Waikato to as far south as Taumarunui, Mike juggles the challenges of supply and demand on a tight budget while relying on volunteers to make up orders.

Mike, with a small team of staff, plus those vital volunteers, is in the “business” of feeding the poor.

He’s the boss of the St Vincent de Paul charity in Hamilton – the people who run the Vinnies stores – the second hand shops which provide a large part of the money to operate the Vinnies Food Bank.

“This is a growth industry, and it shouldn’t be,” says Mike as he takes Waikato News on a tour of the food bank’s new warehouse which was officially opened and blessed this morning by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Hamilton, Stephen Lowe.

“Ten years ago when I started at SVDP our food bank was a cupboard in the office, now it is this,” says Mike as he indicates the five-tiered warehouse shelving packed with tinned food and breakfast cereals, the pallets of produce, the trays of bread, stacks eggs, and the row of chest freezers.

So, who are the “poor” who need so much help these days and what is driving the growth in demand?

Forget the stereotype of food parcels providing temporary help to those down on their luck or homeless.

Like many of the woes of the world today, the finger of blame points to the spread of Covid-19 and the economic disruption it has sparked.

“Pre-Covid we used to be helping 12 to 15 families a day,” says Mike, “that jumped to 70 families a day during the level 4 lockdown.