“A good community is a community that supports all of its members – whoever they might be – so that the most vulnerable members of our community are not forgotten.”
Bill Mithen. CEO Give Where You Live Foundation.
Covid-19 has resulted in a dramatic increase in the incidence of food insecurity. In May 2020, Foodbank Australia reported a 78% growth in demand for provisions. Locally, the Give Where You Live Foundation is aware of a rise in the number of families struggling to stretch the household budget to the end of the week. Food insecurity does not discriminate, it is impacting individuals and families in every suburb of our community.
Prior to the Covid-19 crisis (according to the ‘Food for Thought Report, 2018)’ it was estimated that across Geelong the equivalent of 2,000 meals per day were provided by the food assistance system and almost half of those receiving assistance were families with children.
At the start of 2020, it was estimated that over a million Australians were already confronting some degree of insecure access to the nutritious food supply. This figure included people experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities, people with drug and/or alcohol dependency, young people, CALD communities, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. As industries shut down and job losses mounted, the number of people facing insecure food supply grew overnight.
The initial national approach to the pandemic was to try and send our economy into hibernation. It was hoped a temporary closure would result in a national “snap back”, but as 2020 draws to a close we are beginning to see the potholed impact that Covid-19 is having on the road to social and economic recovery.
In July 2020 Dr Fiona McKay, Dr Amber Bastian & Dr Rebecca Lindberg from Deakin University, published a paper that canvasses the depth of the problem in Victoria. ‘Exploring the response of the Victorian emergency and community food services to the Covid-19 pandemic’ surveyed over 100 of the State’s emergency food relief providers.
The responses reveal the hidden truths of community members who have been left behind. The Deakin Report cites a 27% increase in students presenting at charities and seeking food assistance. This percentile increase is replicated for people on Temporary Visas. This resonates with what we are hearing across our region.
Whilst Job Keeper and Seeker are being tapered, mortgage and rental deferments are coming due. Under and unemployment rates are at record levels, many families and individuals have dipped into superannuation and depleted their savings. The combination of these factors has resulted in a record number of people needing to access charitable support to deal with food insecurity for the first time in their lives.
The responsibility has fallen on Not for Profits, churches, charities, and volunteer organisations who are already supplying pre-cooked meals, fresh fruit and vegetables, and pantry provisions for vulnerable families and individuals. These groups rely on volunteers and 67% of these groups have reported a dramatic loss of volunteer support.
The drop off can be explained by the average age of volunteers, concerns about community transmission, and social and travel restrictions. But the gap has impacted supply lines and the organisations hold genuine concerns about the continuation of service delivery for our community in 2021.
Feed Geelong responds
The Give Where You Live Foundation is aware of these impacts and has been proactive in 2020 to confront food insecurity. In April this year, the Foundation partnered with the Antony Costa Foundation and took the initiative to issue eight emergency grants to key organisations that are delivering vital services.
Five of these grants went directly to organisations dealing with food provision. Each organisation received $60,000 to help sustain operations through the pandemic crisis. It was a rapid response to an emergency situation and CEO Bill Mithen explained at the time “It was important for us to act in a responsive and urgent way… Unprecedented times should mean unprecedented actions.”
In addition to this year’s Emergency Grants, the Give Where You Live Foundation delivers the Feed Geelong initiative annually and will announce this year’s Feed Geelong grants in November. Feed Geelong also delivers the ‘Where Can I Eat?’ program providing those in need with real time information for families and individuals accessing emergency food in Geelong via the Feed Geelong website (feedgeelong.orga.au) as well as providing this information to agencies across our region.
The Give Where You Live Foundation remains involved in on-going discussions with key regional stake holders and community leaders about the best strategies going forward in order to address the issue of food insecurity and support vulnerable members of the wider Geelong community, whoever they may be and this is how you can help.
Will you help someone in need in your community today?
You can help with a donation today to the Feed Geelong Appeal online at feedgeelong.org.au.
Your donation will directly assist with funding this year’s Feed Geelong grants which will be announced on Monday, 2 November 2020.