ONE MIL­LION MEALS

Times get tougher as de­mand spreads be­yond home­less and un­em­ployed

South Western Times - - Front Page - Emily Ace

Bun­bury Food­bank de­liv­ered a stag­ger­ing 1,025,991 meals to peo­ple do­ing it tough in the 2017-18 fi­nan­cial year, ac­cord­ing to a re­port high­light­ing the grow­ing de­mand on the char­ity group.

The shock­ing fig­ure from the 2018 Food­bank Hunger Re­port rep­re­sents 20 per cent of the to­tal num­ber of meals dis­trib­uted across the six branches, with the data re­veal­ing peo­ple liv­ing in re­gional or re­mote ar­eas are 33 per cent more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence food in­se­cu­rity than those liv­ing in the city.

Bun­bury branch man­ager Carol Hearn said it was “unimag­in­able” to think what would hap­pen if Food­bank was not there to help.

“Times have got tougher, it is not as easy as it used to be – I see it day in and day out,” Mrs Hearn said.

“I have been here long enough to be able to take it in and see it progress to a higher amount.

“Be­fore it was mainly the un­em­ployed and the home­less...but there are a lot of peo­ple now com­ing in who are low-in­come earn­ers or one-in­come fam­i­lies.”

De­spite Food­bank WA pro­vid­ing food for more than half a mil­lion meals ev­ery month, only 36 per cent of char­i­ties be­lieved they were meet­ing the full needs of the peo­ple they helped, yet only 52 per cent of those ex­pe­ri­enc­ing food in­se­cu­rity sought as­sis­tance.

Food­bank chief ex­ec­u­tive Greg Heb­ble said low in­comes cou­pled with the high cost of liv­ing were the main rea­sons peo­ple were strug­gling to af­ford enough food for them­selves and their fam­i­lies in the South West.

“Al­most half of the peo­ple sur­veyed have gone hun­gry due to an un­ex­pected ex­pense or large bill,” he said.

“The re­port shows that vul­ner­a­ble fam­i­lies in re­gional and re­mote ar­eas find it harder to ac­cess food and when they run out and are un­able to af­ford to buy more, they are more likely to feel em­bar­rassed and un­able to talk to friends and fam­ily about their sit­u­a­tion.”

He said tack­ling the big prob­lem of hunger was an ur­gent is­sue which could not be ig­nored.

“Food in­se­cu­rity is a grow­ing prob­lem na­tion­wide, not just in the South West re­gion,” Mr Heb­ble said.

“We are call­ing on the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment a Food Se­cu­rity Strat­egy and we need more cor­po­rate and in­di­vid­ual sup­port­ers to help us.”

The chal­lenges fac­ing char­ity groups as they try to help those in need have been well doc­u­mented. In Bun­bury, sev­eral groups are con­tin­u­ally bat­tling to pro­vide ba­sic needs for in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies.

With this in mind, fig­ures re­leased this week by Food­bank in Bun­bury are star­tling.

The na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion, which pro­vides food to var­i­ous char­i­ties and com­mu­nity groups that feed the hun­gry, served up an in­cred­i­ble 1,025,991 meals in the fi­nan­cial year 2017-18.

The con­tri­bu­tion to the Bun­bury com­mu­nity rep­re­sented 20 per cent of Food­bank’s meals de­liv­ered across Western Aus­tralia.

Clearly, the need for food do­na­tions in the re­gion is not go­ing away.

As we get closer to Christ­mas we will again be re­minded of those in need, who with­out do­na­tions from the com­mu­nity will not have enough to en­joy a ba­sic fes­tive meal.

The South West is a gen­er­ous, giv­ing com­mu­nity and will again come to their aid.

But be­hind the char­ity work, mea­sures need to be taken to ad­dress the causes of the growth in de­mand. Gov­ern­ment agen­cies must work with these char­i­ties to un­der­stand the causes and im­ple­ment strate­gies to ad­dress them.

With­out this ap­proach, de­mand will con­tinue to in­crease and more and more peo­ple will be bat­tling to put food on the ta­ble.

Pic­ture: Jon Gell­weiler

Food Bank Bun­bury man­ager Carol Hearn calls on the com­mu­nity to con­tinue do­nat­ing to the food ser­vice.

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