Over 1 million Australians a month are now in need of emergency food, a figure Australia’s largest hunger relief organisation, Foodbank, says is “unprecedented.”
The increase is due to the COVID-19 coronavirus crises, Foodbank Australia CEO Brianna Casey told the Sydney Morning Herald, before explaining that much of the new demand stems from suddenly jobless migrant workers and international students.
International students are ineligible for new COVID-19 federal income support payments, like the $1,500 AUD per fortnight JobKeeper payment or the JobSeeker allowance. According to Casey, these students make up a considerable percentage of the 185,000 spike of in need individuals each month.
"It is confronting,” Casey said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “People have had such an economic shock ... they are really struggling at the moment and looking for the most basic of human needs, food and groceries.”
Your local Foodbank may be in a position to accept healthy volunteers who can commit to regular volunteer shifts, multiple times a week, to help us meet the increase in demand for essential food relief. Register your interest https://t.co/mfNGSlMlFl. #Thankyoupic.twitter.com/TUC3OYkhD3— Foodbank Australia (@FoodbankAus) April 2, 2020
The increased demand comes at a time when almost a fifth of charities that typically distribute food have been forced to close, according to the ABC.
Additionally, nearly all hunger relief organisations have witnessed a significant depletion in the number of volunteers, as older volunteers have been urged to isolate at home and volunteers sourced from the corporate sector dwindle.
The number of supplies has also been impacted thanks to closures on the acceptance of public food donations.
To ensure food is available to vulnerable individuals, the Australian government announced a $16 million bundle to support food relief charities. Soldiers from the Australian Defence Force have also been deployed to help pack food parcels at Foodbank’s warehouse in Sydney.
In a statement backed by Casey, Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt urged Australians to donate funds or volunteer if possible.
“If you’re volunteering to provide groceries or meals for people who are otherwise truly isolated, I want to say thank you,” he said during a press conference in Canberra. “To those who are contemplating it, that would be a wonderful human gesture.”
Iconic food and beverage brands have also stepped up to provide relief to those in need.
Biscuit brand Arnott’s and beverage company PepsiCo donated $350,000 and $480,000, respectively, to Foodbank.
Arnott’s similarly donated over 750 food hampers to communities near its factories, while PepsiCo donated $100,000 worth of products like Australian snack icon Twisties and Pepsi Max to essential workers in the education and aged care industries.
McCain Foods, meanwhile, supplied 250,000 frozen meals like lasagnas and roasts to Foodbank and additional hunger relief charities — including Fareshare Victoria, Second Bite Australia and the Salvation Army.