Can you imagine going home tonight and not having enough food for your hungry family?
It’s likely many of us can, having felt this even for just a minute during the pandemic … the snap lockdowns, days of panic buying, having to self isolate after a covid test … the feelings of stress, worry, uncertainty are still raw.
Now imagine going to the supermarket with the shelves full of things and still not being able to buy them because you have no money. Or not being able to get to the shops because you have no transport. Or having to listen to your child say, “Mummy I’m hungry” and not having anything to offer them.
Imagine being a school teacher worried that your students are missing out on the school breakfast program while in lockdown and wondering whether they’re getting enough food at home. We all know about the negative flow on effects for kids that go to school hungry, including poor learning, physical and mental health outcomes.
Imagine this is your reality every single day. Well, this is the everyday reality for the people we support at Bendigo Foodshare.
We live in the lucky country. A country full of opportunities for us all. A country where we produce and make more food than we eat. So much food, in fact, that we somehow throw out $8 billion dollars worth every year!
So, if this is the case, how does one in every five Aussie kids go to school hungry every day? How does one in nine Bendigo families struggle to put food on the table at some time every week?
Based on these numbers, every one of us would know someone who is struggling to put food on the table right now. It could be your neighbour or your child’s best friend. But you won’t know who it is, because they are too ashamed to ask for help.
No child should go to school hungry and no one should go without food. Food is essential to live, work, learn and play.
So at Bendigo Foodshare we rescue food that would have once ended up in landfill. Our 200 volunteers and over 260 partner organisations help us get this food out to nearly 13,000 vulnerable people each week across Central and North Central Victoria; from Heathcote and Girgarre in the East, Echuca and Pyramid Hill in the North, Avoca and Beaufort in the West and Gisborne and Kyneton in the south. Our food supports food relief programs in schools, kinders and childcare centres, large charities like the Salvos and St Vinnies and small community and church groups.
The effects of COVID, along with Government support winding back and skyrocketing housing and rental prices, have seen demand for food relief rise by 30%. To meet this increasing demand, last year we went from sourcing and distributing 755,000 kgs to 893,000 kgs of food. That’s an increase of almost twenty percent and a total value of $6.7 million.
But we need to do more. Our warehouse is too small, so we are building a bigger warehouse that will double our food storage and distribution capacity. However, the sad fact is we will never meet the demand and we realise that food relief is only part of the solution to building a food secure community.
So, we have a bigger, bolder plan.
Bendigo Foodshare’s new home will be a community food hub. An inclusive and inspiring place where people can access fresh, healthy food cheaply and in a dignified way. We will have a social supermarket, pop up café, cooking skills training area, and a food garden. These areas will provide valuable connections to food and community to grow, cook and share food and develop skills. We will provide opportunities for social enterprises that encourage pathways to employment and money to make our programs sustainable.
To realise this vision, Bendigo Foodshare needs $1.8 million and we want your help to do this. The exciting news is that with the incredible support from the State Government, businesses and our community, we have already raised $1.55 million! As the end of the financial year approaches, we urge you to consider a charitable donation that could boost your tax return while helping us to achieve our vision. Because food is essential to life; to live, work learn and play.