Have you ever heard of the term Food insecurity? I hadnt.

I guess as a mum I spend a lot of time trying to get my kids to eat. I talk to them about other kids not being as lucky to have food in their bellies and blankets on their beds. It’s hard to explain to kids the idea of poverty when you dont have a reference point for them.

Foodbank Victoria got in contact with me. To talk about thinking globally and locally this Christmas – I was battling the crowds this morning and watching people grab at big buckets of maltesers, oversized candy canes and chocolate covered pretzels at the end of every aisle of the supermarket. Restraint and December dont always go hand in hand.

Ric Benjamin – the CEO of Foodbank Victoria – generously answered some questions for a space in between interview. If social media can be used for social good then its a win for us all…

Tell me about Foodbank Victoria Ric

The Australian Council of Social Service estimates that there are nearly 2.3 million Australian living poverty that’s almost 13% of the population. This figure includes 575,000 children. For the most desperate of these families, 2 in 5 will have pawned something in the last 3 months to pay for food, approximately 10% do not have cooking facilities, a fridge or electricity and a third do not go shopping due to mobility or health problems (ACOSS Poverty & Inequality in Australia Report 2012).

At some stage in a 12 month period they would have to rely on food from a welfare agency, supplied to them by Foodbank. Foodbank Victoria is an independent charity that aims to deliver nutritious, healthy food to individuals and families experiencing hardship. We provide food, emergency relief and support programs to Victorians through a network of more than 500 community organisations, such as welfare agencies, schools, support groups and local resource centres.

In 2012 we distributed more than 6.9 million meal equivalents across metropolitan, regional and rural communities of Victoria. Foodbank Victoria is also part of the State Government’s Disaster Response and Recovery Plan to distribute emergency aid in times of crisis.

Food insecurity is a phrase that people might not be familiar with – how would you explain it to the community?

The best way to explain it is to look at what happens to someone when they are hungry. For most of us, we simply walk into our kitchen at home or into a shop/cafe if we are out and choose something to eat because we can afford the food we need. If someone is food insecure, they feel exactly the same sense of hunger however they dont have many options to get food because they have little or no money to afford the food they need.

The flow-on effect of being food insecure means that the person or family is constantly making decisions about priorities – do they need to skip a meal to pay the rent or electricity bill or allow my child to attend the school excursion? In fact parents in food insecure families regularly skip a meal or reduce the size of their meals to ensure there is enough money for their kids to have something to eat.

We are familiar with images of people in developing countries who are struggling to feed their families – what is the Australian experience?

Poverty in Australia is a hidden issue. We really only see poverty when we see people begging in the main streets of Melbourne or Sydney. What we don’t see is the pensioner who can’t afford their power bills in the middle of winter so they sit in the cold during the day and go to bed as soon as it is dark. They are not really living, just existing.

What we also don’t realise is that when we see our neighbour or the person sitting next to us on the train looking like they should have showered that morning or cared for their clothes a bit better, what we may be actually seeing is the effect of poverty. Paying bills, staying off the streets, feeding your family, being able to afford to see a doctor and pay for the medicines they prescribe all take priority over aspects of life we take for granted.

I always feel like I could be doing more – how can people help out?

There is a Foodbank in every State and in the Northern Territory so people can help wherever they live in Australia!

The ways to help depend on your time and resources  if you want to volunteer at a welfare agency there are 2800 across Australia supported by Foodbank or you could volunteer at a Foodbank too. Or you could get family, friends, school or your work to run an appeal for food (tinned products are easy) or to raise money.

Simply contact your local Foodbank to discuss how you could help!

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Thanks Ric, such a timely reminder at this time of year. I grew up attending a the local Catholic primary school and remember quite vividly the special services for people who didn’t have much – every class would donate a washing basket full of food. I don’t ever remember being told where it all went. I wonder if the people it went to relied on the donations from month to month…

 

What do you know about not having enough? Have you ever helped out in your community?

*This is not a sponsored post. I did not receive any payment for promoting the work of Foodbank Victoria. Given my focus on social welfare I do, from time to time, use my blog to promote the good work of others.
I’m also linking up with Jess from #ibot to spread the Foodbank word. Pop on over for some summer reading…

Join the conversation! 13 Comments

  1. Great issue to raise awareness over
    Our local church runs a Foodbank and feeds over 500 families each week
    It is incredible how many people come and use the Foodbank!

    Where ever people are – get in touch and help – every little bit counts and the positive effects from a Foodbank are many and far reaching

    Great post
    xx

    Reply
    • Thanks Josefa – I was taken aback – not about how many people are struggling but about the great work they do. Ive arranged for my daughters end of year class party to include a mini food drive that Im dropping off to Foodbank NSW. Every little bit helps – thanks so much for reading and sharing.

      Reply
  2. Great post! Thanks for bring attention to this problem and great cause. Rachel xx

    #TeamIBOT x

    Reply
    • It is a great cause Rachel – glad to have shared it. Blogs can generate some navel gazing – its nice to face outwards x

      Reply
  3. 13% of the population?! Stats like that do my head in.

    Thanks for sharing this interview with us all.

    Reply
    • I know. It makes you think of all the people in your community and the hidden face of poverty. Thanks for visiting Emily x

      Reply
  4. A really great post. I have never heard of food insecurity before, so I’m glad it’s been brought to attention. We’re donating to the foodbank in lieu of doing a work KK this year, which I feel is a really great idea. Every little bit helps!

    Reply
  5. This is a great post but one that makes me sad. I was working for a finance company talking to people in hardship, there are literally thousands of people who do this every day. specifcally those on pensions (single parent, job seekers and the elderly) . In our country where econimically we are far better off than most it really is a sad state of affairs – stopping by from IBOT

    Reply
    • So true Mel. Emily said in an earlier comment that she was astounded by the stats – while donating food and raising awareness is one thing policy development and addressing the cause of hardship are the longer term goals arent they? Thanks for stopping by, Sarah x

      Reply
  6. I know our church has helped quite a few families who have had nothing over the years. It’s amazing how many are struggling.
    Thanks for raising awareness Sarah

    Reply
  7. It is amazing in this day and age how many people are struggling from meal to meal. I hope that the world my son grows up in can find a way to reduce this. Timely reminder!

    Reply
  8. What an insight. Thank you for making us more aware and that something, no matter how small can be done. Our girls are donating food supplies through school to those in need in our local community. Teaching them is where it all begins. x

    Reply

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