Bendigo Foodshare is calling for the community's help for funding as more and more people in central Victoria need help to feed their families.
Foodshare has launched its annual Million Meals in May campaign in an effort to raise the $65,000 it needs to run its operation for another year.
Chair Cathie Steele said the organisation was now reaching 12,600 people, nearly 4000 more than previously.
She attributed the rise in people needing Foodshare's help to underemployment, affecting many across the community.
"We know it's increasing, the demand's increasing. We're still not getting out to everyone who needs us, but we're doing our bit," Ms Steele said.
"There's more underemployment around. If you're a teacher say, and you've got two days a week work that may not be enough to pay your bills. So food is discretionary. And when you're in difficulty, food's something that goes.
"Whether you're a doctor, or a dentist, or a lawyer, or a teacher, or a farmer ... if you're income's not enough for whatever reason you're going to be experiencing food poverty."
Bendigo Foodshare hopes to recruit more than 30 hospitality businesses to sell bowls of soup, alongside community fundraising events, to raise the money it needs.
Proceeds from the soup purchased in May go directly to Bendigo Foodshare.
The organisation will use the funds to collect donated food that would otherwise have been wasted and redistribute it to organisations who share the food with people in need.
What's next for Bendigo Foodshare?
A food hub will combine a bigger warehouse with opportunities for Foodshare to become financially sustainable.
This might mean letting out kitchens, or renting cooling facilities.
It would be akin to a social enterprise, Ms Steele said. The organisation is in the process of deciding on land for the plan.
It aims to have a detailed design complete in the 2019-2020 financial year, but will then be dependent on funding.
Ms Steele hopes the hub - of which Bendigo Foodshare and the Bendigo Farmers Markets will be the key tenants - will also help engage the community, through festivals and the like.
We need to do more. We need more warehouse space, we need more food, we need more volunteers.- Cathie Steele
"We need to do more. We need more warehouse space, we need more food, we need more volunteers," Ms Steele said.
"We have to find a way to keep the lights on, keep the van on, keep the warehouse busy."
Is giving out meals enough?
"We know that giving out food is not enough," Ms Steele said.
Helping people get out of food poverty is Bendigo Foodshare's long term aim.
To achieve this Foodshare is seeking to work with organisations that add value to its programs, such as Bendigo Family and Financial Services, Ms Steele said.
A program for people in debt, whereby BFFS provided food to a family for six weeks, was one example, Ms Steele said.
The money saved is then put against the debt.
The Million Meals in May fundraiser will run from May 1 to May 31.
To support Bendigo Foodshare people can donate online or at Bendigo Bank branches, host a Soupfest event or buy a bowl of soup at participating businesses.
For more information, visit: bendigofoodshare.org.au
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