Helping the hungry through food relief
PETER Mathews was born in Swan Hill, grew up in Melbourne and has lived in Beechworth for 17 years. What’s your job? I manage, with the help of 110 volunteers, Albury Wodonga Regional FoodShare from a warehouse at Wodonga TAFE. We rescue food and make it available to 122 emergency food relief providers and 70 schools across our region, which incorporates 10 local government areas in both Victoria and NSW. The food we distribute is the equivalent of 25,000 meals per week. On a local level, both Quercus and the Salvation Army Beechworth and the Beechworth schools use food from FoodShare to provide emergency relief and food programs to people in need in our community. What brought you to this role? I have always worked in food and associated industries. As a consultant I was engaged to write the business plan to establish a fully integrated food rescue and supply warehouse to support emergency food relief agencies and a school’s program in Albury Wodonga. What do you love about your job? I know FoodShare provides much-needed food to people in need. I enjoy the interaction with the relief agencies and schools we partner with, the volunteers who bring so many different skills to their involvement, and the generous donors, who make it possible. What do you do in the community? I have been involved with Quercus Beechworth for about five years, currently the chair, and am also involved in the Wodonga Local Food Network. I was the founding treasurer for Beechworth Landcare and for about 10 years continued in that role, and I was heavily involved in the Myrtleford Soccer Club board and canteen for many years.
What’s the most important current community issue for you?
Supporting people who slip through the cracks, making sure food and other material aid is available for people and that it is easily accessible across the region.
What would you do to solve, change or improve that situation?
Encourage all levels of government to play a bigger role in food security and alleviating poverty. We need to support our community and develop resilience skills so people can fully take part in their community.
What’s the most important current world issue for you?
Firstly, climate change. More and more evidence is coming out that shows humans are not taking responsibility for the damage we are doing to the planet. Secondly, equitable wealth distribution, where in many parts of the world the wealth of the country is not fairly distributed, thus creating poverty and the refugee crises we see across the globe.
If the person you’d most like to meet came to Indigo, or was already here, who would that be and what would you show them?
Any refugee. I would love to talk to them about their life and the reasons for leaving their own country. I would welcome them to our town, make them feel safe and offer them a role in our community. Not only would their life be better, our whole community would grow in knowledge and understanding of how we can all do more to help others.
Why would you show them that?
Because there are many in the Beechworth community who have much to offer people in dire circumstances – the benefits would be a revelation. What book are you reading?
Richard Flanagan’s ‘First Person’, and Geoffrey Robertson’s memoirs, ‘Rather his own man’, ‘Kevin Sheedy – Autobiography’ (I’m a big Bombers fan).
HUMANITARIAN: Beechworth’s Peter Matthews provides food to people in need through Albury Wodonga Regional FoodShare which aims to prevent hunger around the region.