Trolleys with food parcels lined up against a red brick wall

Friday 9 June 2023

Support with food – Aaron and Lisa’s story

Constant daily pressures and the cost of living have meant that even “normal” is now often impossible for many families.

Each day well over 100 people receive support with food from Auckland City Mission – Te Tāpui Atawhai’s Food Security service in Boston Road when they simply have nowhere else to go. In winter the need increases.

The choice to reach out for help is never an easy one and often not a choice at all – it is the last heart-breaking option.  Lisa and Aaron* know this all too well.  They turned to the Mission for help with food last year when they had no money for groceries.

Until three years ago, the pair were both working full-time and enjoying life in their new home in Manurewa. Then Lisa was hospitalised with kidney disease and was unable to work for six months. As she was the main breadwinner, this was a huge blow financially as well as extremely worrying.

When she returned to work, Lisa’s relationship with her employers broke down and she was diagnosed with workplace-induced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Devastated, she had to give up her career of 30 years. The couple was soon unable to meet mortgage repayments and the fear of losing the home that they had worked so hard to buy left them unable to sleep at night.

Soon after, three close relations passed away in quick succession. The combination of bereavement, illness and money troubles threatened to overwhelm them.

After extensive negotiations with their lender, the couple was greatly relieved to have the threat of a mortgagee sale lifted. They could stay in their own home.

The reprieve helped Lisa’s mental health and she felt well enough to start studying towards a new career. However, the couple still struggled to make ends meet. Utilities and petrol were prioritised so they could keep their home, work and study but food prices were rising fast and eventually became unaffordable.

Aaron, who had always kept a brave face for Lisa’s sake, began to fear for his own health.

“I was several years in remission for bowel cancer, and I was afraid that the stress would bring it back. I have regular routine ultrasounds and CT scans, and recent blood tests revealed that my cancer markers were coming back.”

Although now in remission, he cries as he recalls the time of intense anxiety.

“It was terrible to reach the point of having no money for food. The thought, ‘How are we going to eat?’ was going round and round in my head.”

The couple knew they needed help.

“I was very hesitant to phone the Mission for help but when I did, the staff were amazing. They were so kind and professional. In fact, they made me feel a lot better about myself and that helped reduce the stress I was feeling,” Aaron remembers.

The Mission provided support with food for a few weeks until Aaron received a pay increase, his first rise in five years.  Now the family can afford a basic grocery shop again.

“We buy the same foods that were in the food parcels because we know they are healthy and economical.”

“We are a long way from the days of five years ago when we could pay all our bills, treat our children and grandchildren, and even eat out occasionally, but at least we can buy food again,” Aaron says.

“I don’t know what we would have done without food parcels. We would have been trying to live on milk and bread and eggs and I don’t think we would have survived. We feel incredibly grateful and blessed to have had the help that we received from the Mission.”


*Names changed to protect privacy

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