By Annie Young, Volunteer

Recently, I had the privilege of sharing time with volunteers at Bendigo Foodshare.

With little idea about the concept of the organisation, I walked in on an extraordinary scene; an organisation run out of a large shed in Eaglehawk, stacked high with food in all shapes and sizes, tins, packets, bags, plastic crates and shelves holding all manner of food both fresh and packaged. On one side of the shed are three large freezers storing all manner of frozen goods, from meat to butter.

Everywhere were volunteers in high-vis jackets moving around the shed loading pallets, emptying shelves, entering the large freezers and hauling out frozen goods onto the pallets. Carefully following their order sheets to supply whatever the various organisations needed to feed people in their communities – communities not only within Bendigo but in the smaller towns nearby like Heathcote and Elmore.

Out of a small, extremely crowded office a very busy Chairperson Cathie Steele and her operations manager, the highly efficient Annie, run an important food distribution business in which only one person is a paid employee, and all remaining staff are volunteers, all 120 of them.

As I watched, a procession of cars, vans, privately-owned utes and trailers came and went in quick succession. They drove in close to the shed, were loaded up from pallets with swift efficiency, and were off to deliver their precious cargo all over Bendigo and beyond. 

The food itself comes from supermarkets, wholesalers, bakeries and individual suppliers – all freely given.

Bendigo Foodshare works alongside more than 55 schools, early childhood education centres and kindergartens, and 40 organisations, including The Salvation Army, Anglicare, and Baptcare, to distribute food to feed more than 12,000 mouths per week. 

People needing food through the year include farmers walloped by prolonged drought, families suffering from financial setbacks, underemployment and unexpected illness. 

The stories are endless, but Bendigo Foodshare is there to help these people get back on their feet, by making food one less stress on the road back to financial security.