A SITUATION affecting the supply of fresh and frozen food to Foodshares in regional Victoria, including Bendigo, has resulted in a budget plea.
Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters has called on federal Treasurer, Scott Morrison to include urgent funding for transport-related costs for emergency food relief in the 2018/19 budget, which is released on May 8.
“The federal government provided funding for emergency relief distribution but not for transport-related costs,” Ms Chesters said.
“Funding should be included in the 2018-19 Federal Budget to help fund the transportation of goods from Foodbank Victoria warehouses in Melbourne.”
Bendigo Foodshare has been without means to source food from Foodbank Victoria, in Melbourne, for months as a result of a change in freight provider.
About 40 per cent of Bendigo Foodshare’s stock comes from Melbourne, chair Cathie Steele said.
“Foodbank Victoria’s existing freight provider went into voluntary administration and the subsequent freight provider increased its fees by 70 per cent, so as a result Foodbank Victoria sourced and changed over to a new freight provider in January,” Ms Steele said.
“The new freight provider, Victorian Freight Forwarders, does not have chilled transport capacity. This means that Bendigo and other regional Victorian Foodshares no longer have access to refrigerated food from Foodbank Victoria.”
She said agencies in metropolitan Melbourne could pick up food directly from Foodbank Victoria’s warehouse in Yarraville.
“Whereas regional partners have their ambient food distributed to them though the charity freight program subsidised by the Department of Health and Human Services,” Ms Steele said.
Some regional Victorian Foodshares have devised local solutions to the logistics issue.
One has yet to materialise for Bendigo Foodshare.
The inability to source fresh and frozen food from Melbourne has taken a toll on the Foodshare’s registered agencies, which are struggling to provide services due to limited stock.
Bendigo Foodshare has appealed to Bendigo’s state and federal politicians for help.
“This is a crisis that requires urgent solutions,” Ms Chesters said.
She said she had written to Mr Morrison and met with Bendigo Foodshare twice in recent weeks to discuss possible solutions.
“The Bendigo electorate is home to some of the lowest socio-economic suburbs in the country and when emergency relief is cut off, these families starve,” Ms Chesters said.
“The federal Liberal National government needs to listen and immediately increase funding for Bendigo Foodshare to be able to transport food weekly from Melbourne.”
Member for Bendigo East, Jacinta Allan, said she was aware of the challenges the Foodshare was facing.
“Maree Edwards and I are speaking to the Minister in regards to the issue,” she said.
Mr Morrison’s office has yet to receive information from Ms Chesters.
The Department of Social Services has been contacted for comment.