Most people associate the need for donated food with homelessness or sleeping rough. But that’s not the case according to Foodbank, Australia’s largest food relief organisation.
It found the biggest percentage of people seeking food assistance in South Australia are families doing it tough.
“South Australia has the most expensive electricity bills in the world,” according to Greg Pattinson, Chief Executive Officer of Foodbank South Australia. "We have people who say they’ve paid their bills, but there’s nothing left for them to spend on food for the week. “I met one lady who got a disability pension of a thousand dollars a month and the electricity bill was eight hundred for the same period,” he said.
Foodbank began in South Australia in 2000. It sources and distributes more than 3 million kilograms of food and groceries in the State each year, adding up to more than 100,000 meals a month.
“Foodbank works from paddock to plate, rescuing and sourcing food and groceries from farmers, manufacturers and retailers and then distributes it to front line charities,” Greg said.
According to Greg, demand for Foodbank’s services in 2017 was up more than 20% and with the difficult economic conditions, some charities are struggling and many have started closing.
“As a result of the change in the charity landscape, we have had to be innovative and modify our model by offering retail-style outlets,” he explained. “We have six ‘food hubs’ where people are referred by either Centrelink or one of the other recognised welfare agencies. They can get all the fruit, vegetables and bread they want for free, while a $30 spend at a food hub, equals roughly $220 worth of retail value from a traditional supermarket".
With BHP one of its major supporters, Foodbank is looking to open a further six ‘food hubs’ in the coming year.
It costs $3 million a year to run the organisation, according to Greg, and with only a small amount of government funding, they rely heavily on corporate and community support. “For example, a large food company turns over its production line two days a year without charge, and all the staff volunteer their time for free to create tinned fruit and pasta sauce,” he said.
“BHP also lent the expertise of its local finance team to help Foodbank model how much it would cost the Government to do the work that Foodbank does. From this work we estimate it could cost around $30 million dollars a year, or ten times what we spend, and that information is hugely helpful in representing the value of our work in the community and the size of the challenge."
“We are always looking for innovative ways to fill the gap and community support is vital in that process,” he said. “Food is something everyone gets, and it is great when you see the difference a little bit of help can make to so many people.”