THE demand for food relief in the south-west is growing with Warrnambool and District Food Share on track to this year provide about 80,000 kilograms of free food to people in need in the region, more than double the amount it distributed two years ago.
Food Share’s executive officer Dedy Friebe said much of the increase was coming from struggling families.
Mr Friebe also attributed the rise in demand to an increase in the number of south-west community agencies that obtain food relief for their clients from Food Share.
Free food is not provided to people individually but through dozens of community groups such as Brophy Youth and Family Services, St Vincent de Paul, Gunditjmara Aboriginal Co-operative, the Hamilton Uniting Church, and Loaves and Fishes in Portland.
Mr Friebe said about 5 per cent of Warrnambool’s population, about 1600 people, needed food relief from Food Share.
More than 1400 people received free food from Food Share through community agencies in the past three months, he said.
More than 600 hampers, each with about 40 kilograms of food and an average value of $300, were distributed to more than 150 groups.
Approximately 14,500kg of the food came from seven local supermarkets and two fruit shops with Food Share’s parent organisation — Foodbank Victoria in Melbourne — supplying another 7000kg.
About 20 people help distribute the parcels with the volunteers coming from the community, Newstart recipients, Correctional Services clients, students on work experience and people with disabilities.
Mr Friebe said Food Share previously operated under the Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Co-operative but it handed over the service to a board of management — presently headed by chairman Brian Beirne — 18 months ago.
It is presently operating out of the former Calco Mitre 10 building on Raglan Parade through the generosity of the building’s owner, South West TAFE.
Foodbank Victoria chief executive officer David McNamara said working families and single parent families were the main recipients of the free food, with big rises in utility costs, mortgage stress, redundancies and family crises forcing more people to seek food relief.