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Wednesday, June 15

Rising food prices pinch hard


Rising food prices are continuing to hurt individuals and families, and Government policies are making the problem worse, the Green Party said today.

"Fragile budgets are crumbling around the country in the face of rising food prices, high petrol prices, and poor choices by John Key's Government," Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said today.

Figures released by Statistics New Zealand today showed that food prices have risen 7.4 percent in the year to May 2011. The price of fruit and vegetables had risen 21.4 percent in the past year, and milk 9.3 percent.

"The Government's tax changes have put added pressure on individuals and families. The GST increase has contributed to rising prices, and the so called 'tax switch' has not been enough to cover the difference for thousands of families who are now worse off.

"For those on low incomes and benefits, who are required to spend their whole income on necessities, it has become almost impossible to make ends meet. Putting fresh, healthy food on the table is out of the question for many," Mrs Turei said.

Mrs Turei has begun visiting food banks and community ministries around the country to get a sense of the reality facing our most vulnerable citizens and to see how service providers are coping with increased demand.

"At the Wellington food bank I visited yesterday, it was clear that things are desperate for many people. Demand for the food bank's services has been increasing all year, and while they are doing a fantastic job helping those in need, they are very stretched.

"Even with the support of proactive budgeting services, many of the food bank's clients rely on food parcels every week, because their low incomes do not stretch to cover food after basics like rent and power are taken out."

Mrs Turei said policies were urgently needed that would change the picture for individuals and families before they needed crisis support from food banks and community ministries.

"There are steps we can take to stem the tide, like raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, extending Working for Families support to children whose parents rely on a benefit, and reinstating the Training Incentive Allowance.

"We're confident that the introduction of these policies would bring 100,000 kids out of poverty, but this won't happen if we continue down the path that this Government has put us on.

"Punishing welfare reforms like those recommended by the Welfare Working Group will make life harder for thousands of families, and make fresh, healthy food even more of an impossibility," Mrs Turei said.