SPECIMEN Hill Primary School is trialling a food pantry for the school community in an effort to tackle food insecurity.
With the help of Bendigo Foodshare, the school is making fresh foods and non-perishable essentials available to those in need.
The school previously provided food hampers to families it knew were struggling.
Assistant principal Jac Louttit said the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the need within the school community and prompted the school to think differently about how it made food available.
Instead of phoning to request a hamper, families are able to take what they need from the pantry when visiting the school.
"We've already seen families and students come through and get food who we didn't know were struggling," Ms Louttit said.
The pantry was bare within two days of Bendigo Foodshare's delivery, last week.
Ms Louttit said she had had to order more stock from Foodshare.
The school is accepting donations of non-perishable goods for the pantry, which can be left at the Specimen Hill Primary School office.
The food pantry trial is in its early days, only having started at the beginning of the school year.
But Ms Louttit said the school might consider running both the food pantry and the food hampers, if there was a need.
Food insecurity was one of the most pressing health and wellbeing challenges the region faced before the COVID-19 pandemic.
A 2019 survey found one in 10 households in the Loddon Campaspe region did not have enough to eat.
One in five households in parts of the Bendigo area were struggling to put food on the table, the same survey found.
More than eight per cent of households in Golden Square, where Specimen Hill Primary School is based, had run out of food in the previous 12 months.
The percentage of households experiencing food insecurity in suburbs such as Long Gully, West Bendigo and Ironbark was higher than 18 per cent.
Charities have been under increased pressure since the pandemic, and are expecting demand for services to keep growing.
In January, Bendigo Foodshare was averaging three to four contacts a week from people who were new to food relief services and did not know where to turn for help.
Demand for Foodshare's help had risen by about 40 per cent since the start of the pandemic.
Young people are known to be among those struggling most to access food, with a survey finding 71 per cent of central Victorians between the ages of 16 and 24 had experienced food insecurity in the past two years.
Only 12 per cent of the survey's respondents had accessed food relief services.
Facebook had been effective in getting the word out about Specimen Hill Primary School's food pantry, Ms Louttit said.
She said school community members just needed to ask at reception about accessing the pantry.
Attendees need to bring their own shopping bags to carry the goods.
A number of other programs are delivered through the school to help tackle food insecurity.
They include a lunch program, called Eat Up, which provides students who would otherwise go hungry with a toasted sandwich.
A donation from Dyson Financial Advice enables Specimen Hill Primary School to offer fresh fruit to students who would otherwise go without.
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