The Australian government has boosted funding to essential meal delivery services in an effort to end hunger and achieve food security for senior Australians amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Of the almost $60 million AUD injection into programs like Meals on Wheels, $50 million will go toward producing over 3 million meals for 41,000 Australians across six weeks. Just under $10 million will be used to purchase 36,000 emergency food boxes.
On Sunday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged all Australians over the age of 70 to remain at home.
In a media statement, Morrison acknowledged that urging elderly citizens to stay home would result in a spike in individuals relying on community food programs.
"The care and well-being of senior Australians remains a priority in this uncertain time,” Morrison announced. “We are facing an extraordinary health challenge, and we need to work together to protect Australians most vulnerable to COVID-19.”
Meals On Wheels programs will be prioritised to help support senior Australians staying at home during the coronavirus.— Greg Hunt (@GregHuntMP) March 31, 2020
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The package will specifically work to prioritise home food delivery to those registered with My Aged Care — a government initiative that aims to help Australians access government-funded aged care services. Elderly Australians registered with the service will be given priority access to online and telephone shopping with local grocery distributors.
The government will also link up with commercial providers — like those who now have spare capacity after working in the airline industry — to help food delivery services prepare meals.
As of April 2, there are just under 5,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia — including 21 deaths.
The age group with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia are individuals in their 20s. While people aged over 80 account for just 2.7% of confirmed cases, they represent 47% of fatalities, according to the Guardian.
The average age of death is 77.
Alongside the boost to food delivery services, residents with a government-provided senior concession card have also been given exclusive shopping hours to nationwide Woolworths supermarkets between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.