A NEW program could help meet the growing demand for food relief services in Bendigo.
Foodbank Victoria is set to develop a network of food producers across the region to donate food that would otherwise go to waste.
Foodbank Victoria chief executive Ric Benjamin said Bendigo was a perfect location for its “food mapping project”.
He said similar projects had worked well in the area, and a number of services already donated food to help feed disadvantaged families.
“The region’s got great potential with its cross section of farmers and food producers,” he said.
The program comes as Bendigo FoodShare in Long Gully – a joint initiative of Foodbank Victoria and Bendigo UnitingCare – recorded a steady rise in demand since its official launch last September.
In just over a year the service has received about 12 tonnes – the equivalent weight of two African elephants – of rescued food.
Foodbank Victoria’s Brien Baxter works with suppliers and agencies in the Bendigo region and said the amount of people accessing food services was higher than the rate of unemployment.
“In the region we have seen an increase in demand of 30 per cent over the past 12 months,” he said.
Mr Benjamin said Bendigo was one of a number of areas across the state earmarked for the food mapping project.
Over the next month Foodbank Victoria will write to local farmers to try and set up an arrangement under which they can donate any excess food they are unable to sell.
“When we talk to farmers, they are concerned about the finicky choices consumers make,” Mr Benjamin said.
“What we’re trying to do is understand the barriers that are stopping them donating that food.
“If we can collect all those extra supplies, we can say to them we’ve got the perfect place to store them.”
Mr Baxter said Bendigo FoodShare would benefit hugely from the food mapping project.
“If we are able to get that support from producers, FoodShare could move twice the amount of food it’s doing at the moment,” he said.