Vulnerable Australians in the firing line in run up to Christmas

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Foodbank is Australia’s largest food relief organisation, providing 67 million meals a year to over 2,600 charities and 1,750 schools. Each year it distributes over 37 million kilograms of food and groceries with a retail value of more than $200 million – that’s the equivalent of over 183,000 meals a day. (Image Credit: Foodbank).

More than $8m worth of vital food relief is now at risk following a surprise Federal Government funding cut to the country’s largest food relief organisation, Foodbank.

Six weeks out from Christmas, and with just six weeks’ notice, the Federal Minister for Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher, has announced that funding for the Foodbank Key Staples Program will be cut almost in half, down to $427,000 per year. Despite providing food relief for 710,000 people a month, a quarter of whom are children, the organisation now receives less than half a million dollars in total from the Federal Government to fight hunger in Australia.

Responding to the cut, Foodbank’s CEO Brianna Casey said: “We are dumbfounded. This funding program enables us to leverage an extremely modest investment from the government into more than $8 million of essential foods for distribution to 2,600 charities around the country.”

“Just last month we released the Foodbank Hunger Report 2018 which exposed that food insecurity is on the rise and people in the bush are 33% more likely to experience it than their city counterparts. On top of this we are facing extreme drought conditions across large parts of the country and are coming into the natural disaster season when we know from experience we will see even greater demand for emergency food relief. I just cannot fathom why this is happening at all, let alone at one of the most challenging times of year for vulnerable Australians and our drought-affected communities.”

Foodbank believes this latest cut, the third it’s been asked to absorb since 2014, may sound the death knell for its Key Staples Program. This program sees Foodbank collaborate with suppliers, manufacturers and transporters to ensure there are stocks of essential foods, such as breakfast cereal, rice, pasta and canned fruit and vegetables, in its warehouses every day. In this program, food manufacturers produce foods needed using spare production capacity. Suppliers donate or subsidise the ingredients, packaging and delivery of the food to spread the commitment and enhance the sustainability of the program.

“The Federal Government funding is essential to glue these production arrangements together. Despite demand for food relief growing exponentially, government funding for Foodbank has decreased exponentially, reducing from $1.5m a year three years ago to less than half a million dollars a year from January 2019. It beggars belief.”

“In our pre budget submission we made a compelling case for why it is critical that this funding be increased to address the hunger crisis we are currently facing with 4 million Australians exposed to food insecurity every year. Instead, our flagship program is now at risk and our ability to deliver emergency drought relief in times of natural disaster will be compromised,” Brianna said.

“We call on the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to correct this short sighted decision and commit to ensuring that vulnerable Australians are supported in their time of need,” Brianna said.

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