Demand for food poverty relief has increased in central Victoria over the last two years.
Bendigo Food Share chair Cathie Steele estimates 8800 people require assistance each week compared to 14,000 people a month two years ago.
She said the estimated numbers come from schools and agencies registered with Bendigo Food Share.
“They certainly tell us the demand for food relief is going up,” she said.
“(Agencies) are seeing an increasing need among youth, some of whom are stealing food or bin surfing to survive.
“We have also heard that agencies are seeing an increase in need from women experiencing family violence or family breakup, even in the 55 years and older age group.
“It's a problem we need to own as a community.”
Concern over the rise in families requiring food relief comes as the Foodbank Hunger Report revealed 1 in 5 Australians had run out of food in the last 12 months and were unable to buy more.
At least once a week, 54 per cent of those surveyed skipped meals and 26 per cent went an entire day without eating at all.
Foodbank provided 33,435 kilograms of food to Uniting Bendigo last year and 225,565 kilograms to Bendigo FoodShare for distribution to charities in the region.
The report found the high cost of living and low incomes were the main reasons people were unable to afford food.
Uniting Bendigo’s Julie Roberts said they assist about 400 disadvantaged people each month by providing material aid including food, clothing and household goods, back-to-school costs and bill payment assistance.
“Sometimes it doesn’t take much for bills to spiral out of control,” she said.
“Individuals and families hit with unexpected expenses can quickly see their household budgets overwhelmed.
“Unemployment, illnesses or even back-to-school costs may leave people unable to pay the bills.”
Impacts of food poverty on families and individuals included a decline in mental health, lethargy and feelings of shame.
Foodbank Victoria CEO Dave McNamara said many charities were under strain from increased demand and lack of resources.
“We need policies that better support our most vulnerable and this includes food security and equal access to healthy food.”
Bendigo Food Share struggled to provide frozen and refrigerated goods earlier this year after a change in freight provider.
It was given a lifeline when Foodbank Victoria received a $132,000 state government grant to assist local charities in delivering chillled, fresh and frozen food to charities around the state.
This week, Matthew Rowlands organised three Bendigo’s Big Night Out fundraisers as part of Anti Poverty Week with proceeds going to Bendigo Food Share.
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