We’re well into the swing of the festive season and it’s at a time like this that it’s hard to dispute the profound role food plays in our lives. Whether it’s the multi course family extravaganza on Christmas Day or small things like having a treat after a hard day or seeking comfort when under the weather, food is always there. It’s a vital component of enjoying time with friends and family or even on our own.
That’s why it’s confronting to think that there are a lot of people in Australia who struggle to get food basics for living let alone treats for special occasions. This is reality for two million Australian – not knowing where their next meal will come from, or eking out a meagre pantry that simply doesn’t provide adequate nutrition.
And its not who you think. We all have a mental picture of homeless people getting a basic meal from a soup van but this is only one face of hunger in Australia. Increasingly we’re seeing elderly people, single parents and working poor struggling to make ends meet. In fact low income families are the single biggest group seeking food aid. We’re talking about families who have a breadwinner but their minimum wage doesn’t stretch when there is a family crisis such as ill health or the winter utility bill comes in.
The saddest thing of all is that half the two million are children. They’re going to school without breakfast or, even worse, being kept at home because their parents can’t give them sandwiches or money for the tuck shop.
The good news is that there is a legion of hard working and dedicated front line charities providing food relief to these people and Foodbank’s job is to ensure they have the supplies they need to do the job. This food then goes to hostels, shelters, drop-in centres, school breakfast programs, food parcels and emergency relief packages.
Foodbank acts as a conduit between the need of the charities and the incredible generosity of the Australian food and grocery industry. Over 700 partners, from individual farmers to large multi-national companies, donate product to Foodbank. This includes excess stock, products close to expiry, with incorrect labelling or damaged packaging as well as ingredients that are out of specification or surplus to need. The circumstances that see a windfall for Foodbank are varied but the one constant is that the companies are always on the lookout for any stock they can rescue. In fact they redirected 26 million kilograms last year which was enough to make up 34 million meals.
On top of this, companies help Foodbank by manufacturing staple foods – such as breakfast cereals, milk, meat, fruit and vegetables, pasta and rice – which are needed to supplement the rescued food. Individuals can also donate.
Manufacturers coopt the support of their employees and suppliers so that this product can often be provided free of charge or at minimal cost. Staff has been known to volunteer for a special shift on the weekend just so Foodbank product can be made.
It really is a team effort and proof that together we have a shot at triumphing over the big issues. View the Foodbank videos for more information.
For more information visit the Foodbank site.
Sarah Pennell, Foodbank
myfoodbook is a proud supporter of Foodbank and thanks Sarah for giving us this overview of their vital work this season, find out more about our relationship with Foodbank.