Community steps up to deliver food as supermarkets struggle

Corazon Miller
Source: 1News

Families who've been connected to places of interest across the country are struggling to get access to vital food supplies as they face two weeks in isolation. 

Large supermarket chains are struggling to keep up with demand, with a number of stores closed and others operating under restricted opening hours. 

Stepping in to help alleviate the pressure and get vital supplies where they are needed are a number of community organisations - including the Student Volunteer Army and the Sikh Aware organisation. 

Janine Ramos is a medical student who has been spending a lot of her spare time doing supermarket runs for those who can't. 

She says the demand has grown exponentially. 

"We've had a massive, massive increase in people needing essentials delivered to them, which has been a little bit overwhelming," she says. "I've done around 10 this week, which is a lot more than what I normally do. As Level 4 hit I think over 30 people ordered in one go." 

Harpreet Singh, the co-founder of Sikh Aware, says he too had noted a growing number of people approaching them for help with delivering groceries. 

Harpreet Singh, the co-founder of Sikh Aware.

"This is the bare minimum we can do. Just imagine you have small children at home and you need milk? If you are meant to be isolating and there is no other option, you would look at breaking the rules. 

"We don't want anyone to have to do that to get the basic necessities." 

With more than 8000 contacts identified so far in this outbreak, all having to stay at home, the pressure on online delivery services is high - with slots for the delivery of online shopping booked for the forseeable future. 

Ashleah Copeland's eldest son has been exposed twice - at Northcote College and Countdown Birkenhead.   

They are now facing 14 days of isolation. 

"Our landlord and my in-laws normally are the ones that get food for us. However, my landlord is now isolated as well due to being at a place of interest. And my father-in-law is limiting how much he goes out due to my mother-in-law being compromised." 

She was fortunate to get a delivery via the Student Volunteer Army, but says due to the challenges of getting stock a lot was missing - which was particularly tough on her youngest boy. 

"We are having a bit of trouble getting the foods we know our boy will eat as he's also autistic, so he's very particular." 

Compounding the problem for shoppers is a heightened demand for food across the board - combined with the challenges of keeping operations running as hundreds of supermarket staff are identified as close contacts. 

A Countdown spokeswoman says 400 of its staff were in isolation after being exposed to the virus across 13 stores in Auckland and Wellington. 

Its Botany, Birkenhead, Glenfield, Albert Street and Halsey Street stores were closed, with Hauraki Corner and Māngere Mall expected to close this evening. 

"We are recruiting and training, but this is a very unusual situation and we're working as best and as fast as we can," the spokeswoman said. 

North Shore councillor Chris Darby says North Shore has been particularly hard-hit. 

"The number of close contacts here on the Shore would run into the thousands."

He says many of those isolating are finding it challenging to supply themselves with food. He'd had half a dozen contact him asking for help in the last few days alone. 

"I think you can multiply that considerably," he said. "It is a big of a challenge getting supply with food, but people are starting to explore some interesting options and look at [alternatives] online." 

He also encouraged people struggling to look beyond the big chains, such as Pak n' Save, Countdown, or New World to smaller alternative retailers that also did deliveries.

Barring the other options, he encouraged people to reach out - to a neighbour, to a friend or to the community - for help with contactless deliveries. 

"The indications are that we might be in this for a little time."