As coronavirus cases continue to rise in central Victoria, support services say they are reaching a crisis point.
This challenge is now being echoed throughout the nation, with a new report finding an estimated 1.2 million children in Australia went hungry in the past year, while one in six adults faced food insecurity.
The Foodbank Hunger Report 2021, released this week, showed that more than half of people impacted by severe food insecurity went a whole day every week without eating.
Bendigo Foodshare manager Bridget Bentley said food relief and insecurity had been an issue within the community for a long time, but said, the pandemic had significantly exacerbated it.
The report found in addition to those who were already struggling before COVID-19, the pandemic had caused others to experience vulnerability for the first time.
In fact, more than one in three of last year's food-insecure Australians had never been in that position before.
"We are seeing a lot more people coming forward who are needing help for the very first time," Ms Bentley said
"That is because of the financial pressures people have been facing not only with the lockdowns but also people having to isolate. That puts pressure on people to get and fund food immediately."
Ms Bentley expected the next couple of months to present new challenges for the food relief service.
"We are finding ourselves in another crisis point at the moment and one of our more challenging points of time," she said.
"As we are seeing the number of COVID cases in Bendigo escalate, our ability to access fresh food is presenting a challenge.
"There are new pressures on the supermarkets and on their supply chains and that changes our ability to access food.
"We also have some of the volunteers that are exposed to COVID that have to isolate. From a volunteer staffing point of view, it makes working in this environment even more challenging."
With much government assistance drying up, Ms Bentley said an increasing number of central Victorians were experiencing food insecurity.
The coronavirus supplement, which began at $550 a fortnight before tapering down - was withdrawn back in March this year.
The government however lifted the base rate of welfare payments by $50 a fortnight, compared to the pre-pandemic level.
The report found the most common reasons why people report experiencing food insecurity were unexpected expenses or bill shock or overall low incomes.
"The need for our services has been steadily increasing," Ms Bentley said.
"Particularly over the last couple of months, this need is starting to spike.
"By the time a person comes forward and seeks help because it isn't an easy thing to do, especially if you haven't had to reach out for help before, they are really at crisis point financially and they are in a desperate state."
One positive, Ms Bentley said that many can draw from the current situation is that the reality of food insecurity is no longer hidden.
"The report suggests one of the things that came during the pandemic, is that people are more understanding of the issue of food insecurity," she said.
"Before the pandemic, it was a polarising issue but now just about everybody knows of somebody that has struggled with food at some point through this pandemic.
"We now realise how vulnerable we all can be."
Ms Bentley said with increase spiking, more volunteers were needed.
"We are always on the lookout for volunteers to support our operation and keep us going," she said.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: