14 April 2023
A church food aid initiative is preparing for what could be one of its largest food drives since the COVID pandemic amid increased demand from community services organisations.
St Hilary’s Hope organisers say all the charities they support, including Camcare and Boroondara Community Outreach have reported being desperately in need of more food and grocery supplies, ahead of the drive set for 6 May.
Director Mike Urwin said one agency that usually supported members of the Asian community and tended to prefer items suited to them, was requesting anything as their shelves were always empty.
Another had also reported being in desperate need after a lower-than-normal Christmas appeal, Mr Urwin said.
Boroondara Community Outreach said 52 new people had approached it for emergency relief in the the first few months of this year, and nine of them had come forward in one week.
Coordinator and Minister the Reverend Natalie Dixon-Monu said BCO was cooking upwards of 400 meals for people in need each week.
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Ms Dixon-Monu said BCO’s core group comprised people with disabilities, pensioners and boarding house residents, but that more families, students and women escaping domestic violence, particularly migrant women, were asking for assistance.
Mr Urwin said St Hilary’s Hope had 150 volunteers sign up to help the drive, including parishioners from a Methodist and a Baptist church, while 13 supermarket branches, three more than last year, had also agreed to participate.
Volunteer coordinator Neil Morrison said up to 70 volunteers would be conducting letter drops around the St Hilary’s parish area and 13 to 15 people would man donation tables outside the supermarkets on the day.
The donated goods are then usually transported back to the church hall, sorted and trucked to agencies a week later.
The St Hilary’s Hope food drive has been happening for more than three decades and usually takes months of planning.
Last year it was supported by up to 120 parishioners and volunteers from St Hilary’s Kew, St Silas’ North Balwyn and St Augustine’s Mont Albert, who collected up to 13 tonnes of food.
But Mr Morrison said the organisation was looking at making changes to reduce the sorting time and the number of trucks used for transportation, as well as speed up the delivery of the donated items.
He said the volunteers would take the goods directly to the agencies and fill their shelves immediately.
Mr Morrison and Mr Urwin said they were confident that the drive would be successful, and the fact that there were so many volunteers showed that it was well regarded in the community.
Ms Dixon-Monu said BCO depended on local council and church assistance to be able to help its community, and that the food drive supplied non-perishable food and grocery items, including oil for cooking, washing powder and toilet paper.
“It is massively helpful,” Ms Dixon-Monu said. “It means we don’t have to turn to Foodbank all the time and can save money to purchase meat for the meals we cook.”
For more details about the St Hilary’s Hope food drive, or to donate, please visit hope.sthils.com