The cost of living crisis is tightening and Clutha Budget Advisory Service (CBAS) has reported a record high demand for its services.

CBAS manager Lee-Anne Michelle said demand for food parcels surged by nearly 50% over the average in September.

‘‘We were averaging 86 parcels a month but, in September, it went up to 122.

‘‘In September 2022 it was only 74, then October was up to 144 and that month 28 new clients come forward, some of them representing families.

‘‘People are living week-to-week and if they get an unexpected expense it throws them into the red and that can be very hard to recover from.’’

A CBAS client willing to share his story was Balclutha man Tony Larson, a fulltime single father with two young children.

‘‘I think for some people ‘cost of living’ means thinking about trading in the V8 for an electric car, but for people like us it means planning what night you’re going to eat real meat,’’ he said.

A former hospitality industry cook, Mr Larson now relies on a sole parent support benefit.

‘‘It’s $590.79 a week but I get Winz to pay my rent, power and a fine directly (to the creditors) — that was some really good advice (from CBAS). That leaves $120 a week, plus Working for Families, for petrol, groceries and everything else.’’ According to a 2023 University of Otago department of Human Nutrition study, the estimated food cost for a male living in Dunedin on a ‘‘basic diet’’ was $86 a week — up from $75 a week in 2020 and $65 in 2017.

Steadily climbing fuel and food prices were major factors causing hardship, Ms Michelle said, but there were many others.

‘‘Rates and power bills are all going up.

‘‘A major resurgence of Covid presented people with doctor’s fees, and people have run out of sick leave and annual leave, which will put pressure on during school holidays.

‘‘Our food hub is meant to be short-term and we’re now insisting newcomers have referrals to make sure they’ve accessed services like Winz or Link first.

‘‘CBAS is funded entirely by donors like Otago Community Trust [but] donations are down in general because people are harder up.

‘‘Balclutha camping ground tells us they now have 40-plus medium-to-long-term campers, and we’re seeing more transient people sleeping in cars so we even provide food parcels to the council’s freedom camping ranger.’’

CBAS’s ‘‘Toot for Tucker’’ food drive is scheduled for November 30, and Ms Michelle said people should phone or email about their services first.

Mr Larson said he had been a regular client of CBAS, and had invested in a cheap greenhouse to grow food to supplement his family’s meals.

‘‘Budget advice has been awesome. I really appreciate it,’’ he said.

‘‘The most important thing is putting good food in front of my kids and I’m still able to do that, but I know there are plenty of people doing it harder than us.’’