25 September 2022

Food relief demand soars as living pressures mount

Pantry 5000 is getting more requests for food assistance. Picture: Supplied by Ken Gooding.

Jenan Taylor

9 August 2022

The number of people seeking help at an Anglican food support program is skyrocketing amid cost-of-living pressures, organisers say.

Pantry 5000 a food relief initiative at Longbeach Anglican parish said in the last two months it had been responding to demand from about 400 people every week, a rise of 15 to 20 per cent.

Manager Ken Gooding said the effort which has been running in the bayside area from Parkdale to Seaford since 2012, had seen a huge spike in need during the COVID lockdown before it briefly levelled out.

“But now, our numbers have started to really skyrocket again, and we’re getting close to doing the number of deliveries we were doing during lockdown,” Mr Gooding said.

 “We’re finding that’s probably more for the financial difficulty people are going through now rather than COVID.”

He said those seeking food aid included unemployed singles, families, and elderly pensioners who were finding it hard to make ends meet.

But the majority of people looking for assistance were living in rental accommodation in caravan parks.

The second biggest demand was from single parent families, many of whom were also fleeing domestic violence, Mr Gooding said.

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Foodbank Australia acting chief executive officer Matt Tilley said the demand for food support across most of its agencies was exceeding what had been seen during the COVID lockdowns.

Mr Tilley also said the organisation was seeing a significant increase in people who were working full time asking for help, and that there was no single cohort that defined who needed food relief.

He said the cost-of-living pressures now were more extreme than they had been during the COVID lockdowns, at which time many people had had access to job seeker and job keeper as well.

“Rising petrol prices, interest rates, the Ukrainian war affecting the movement of grain supplies and fertiliser, supermarkets sending less to food donation places, it is the perfect storm on so many fronts,” Mr Tilley said.

Mr Gooding also said Pantry 5000 was helped by a large cohort of volunteers who comprised parishioners and people that the organisation had assisted in the past.

He said they sourced, packed and distributed bags of cereals, rice, pasta and soups, as well as dairy, frozen and fresh food items.

But there was a definite increase in the number of people seeking vegetables as they had become more expensive to buy, Mr Gooding said.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that between the June 2021 and June 2022 quarters, the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages had risen by nearly six per cent.

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