BENDIGO food bank agencies have experienced a 30 per cent rise in demand for their services over the past year, Loddon Mallee Foodbank Victoria rural community support officer Brien Baxter said.
He said nearly 10 per cent of the population of Bendigo were receiving at least one cooked meal or a food parcel per week through agencies.
Anglicare Australia’s State of the Family report, released today as part of national anti-poverty week, shows 45,000 households using Anglicare emergency relief services don’t have enough money to adequately feed their families.
One third of respondents said they did not eat for entire days at least once a week, while one in 10 children do not eat for a whole day on a regular basis.
Bendigo Salvation Army community support services team leader Sharon Crimmins said there had been an increase in the number of clients accessing emergency relief over the past few years.
She said it was not unusual to give food to people who had missed meals or gone without food for days.
“There are certainly a lot of mums and dads who go without food so they can feed their children and we have people that come here who haven’t had food in two or three days.”
She attributed the rise of need for emergency relief food to cost-of-living pressures.
“It’s been going up and up for years.
“Most people who come in here are embarrassed and humbled. It’s not something they want to do.”
Mr Baxter said this was a trend seen all over the region.
“People are becoming more reliant on these services.
“We disperse 10,000 kilograms per month in just rescue food from supermarkets and businesses, but we always need more donations.”
Mr Baxter said the increase in breakfast programs in schools around Bendigo was another sign of the hardship families were facing.
St Luke’s Anglicare manager social policy and advocacy Leah Galvin said the report showed Centrelink payments were insufficient to cover basic food and rent.
“Centrelink payments are inadequate, so no amount of budgeting can make it easier for those people.
“On a Newstart allowance, which is for the unemployed and those with children over a certain age, sometimes that’s not enough when you get an unexpectedly big power bill.
“It’s quite shocking.”