Food charities brace for post-wage subsidy surge in demand

Food charities and support services already under pressure during COVID-19 are bracing for an expected surge in demand with Government wage subsidies due to end in the coming weeks.

One charity, which operates using a unique model to promote the preservation of dignity amongst recipients, has seen a 185% increase in demand, with the numbers of families it helps growing from 350 per week to more than 1,000.

Brook Turner, head of community service development at VisionWest Community Trust, says they have seen the number of whanau they support in West Auckland triple since the beginning of Level 4 and are concerned once the Government wage subsidy finishes in June, the numbers of people in need could increase by this amount again.

He expects this to grow by an additional 700 families in the West Auckland region alone. Now a new $200,000 donation has been made, evenly split between two charities to help them cope with the additional demand for food.

“The first wave exposed the level of food insecurity in New Zealand, but this second wave of need will be at the end of the wage subsidy and we’re already seeing cracks in the surface with redundancies. I believe there will be a third wave too, with businesses getting through September, October and November and then collapsing.

“There is a perfect storm coming and it will be a once in a generation kind of moment. We’ve got to walk with people, give them employment opportunities, set up community enterprises. We will need public, private and non-profit partnerships that help build a new economy to have a co-ordinated food system and a significant response to those in poverty,

“I think Christmas is going to be a really hard time, so it will be up to us as communities and local organisations to really anticipate those needs and respond to them to help people get back on their feet as quickly as possible,” he says.

VisionWest provides wrap-around support to those in need, with an empowerment philosophy which sees those receiving food support also volunteering at the organisation to help others like themselves.

“Our whole approach to kai is that it is a great connector and food is a basic human right like shelter, without those things your whole world is in disarray.”

Turner says during lockdown the charity also worked with police to help deliver food to those in challenging times; this gift alone was often enough to calm difficult situations.

“We’ve seen whanau, who just with the simple gift of food, have a situation de-escalated in their household where there was rising aggression. Food has the ability to make people feel calm and cared for and to come together as a family,” he says.

Donations from suppliers and charitable organisations such as the $100,000 grant from The Trusts will go some way to ensure those that need their help will continue to get it, says Turner, but more will need to be done.

Veronica Shale, executive director of charity Fair Food, which collects and distributes surplus food from retailers and manufacturers, and the other recipient of a $100,000 grant from the Trusts, agrees that a holistic approach is the only way to support the growing number of people who will continue to need support to feed their families.

She says as more hospitality businesses struggle, there is a flow-on effect for suppliers and food wastage and scarcity are the results.

“The issue is how do we divert this food that’s not needed anymore away from the landfill and back into the supply chain so organisations like us can help get it to those who need it.

Shale says before the outbreak of COVID-19 most of the surplus food picked up from her organisation was from supermarkets.

“Now it’s definitely more business to business, so we’re picking up from growers, producers and manufacturers.

“In month one of lockdown we conservatively rescued over 121 tons of good, surplus nutritious food, which equates to over 348,000 meals. Rather than being dumped, this food is doing good. Fair Food offers a pragmatic solution to tackle food waste and food insecurity, nourishing our communities in need – and this need will be ongoing for some time,” says Shale.

She says this has had a positive impact on those receiving food parcels with an increase in the amount of protein in their diets.

“In the past, we’ve struggled to get good protein as meat, chicken and dairy are expensive and what we’ve been rescuing is restaurant quality stuff. We were also lucky to be able to take 26,000 eggs off a nationwide fast food chain that was unable to utilise them for products on their breakfast menu during lockdown,” she says.

Shale says while they’re grateful for the support of The Trusts, businesses and the community need to work together efficiently to redistribute surplus food.

“What I’m saying is if you are a food grower, or manufacturer there are food rescues all around New Zealand who would gladly distribute that food and there are people out there that really need it,” says Shale.

Matt Williams, acting CEO of The Trusts says they are working with a range of community organisations who have had their usual source of funding disrupted during the lockdown.

“There is a growing need from charities who have been cut off from their normal supply of resources which is impacting on their ability to support members of our community.

“We want to encourage other corporates who are in a position to help to reach out to these groups and find a way to help them, whether through financial support or even lending warehouse space and logistical support,” he says

Woolworths commits to eliminate food waste

Woolworths has announced they will commit to eliminate food waste that is sent to landfill by 2020, and will begin a new partnership with Australia’s leading local food rescue organisation, OzHarvest.
The new partnership sees OzHarvest become the principal partner for Woolworths to collect and distribute edible food to people who are in need across Australia.
Woolworths will engage their network of farmers, producers, manufacturers, employees and customers to help minimise food waste as well as supporting OzHarvest’s educational campaigns on food waste reduction, such as Think.Eat.Save, an initiative partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The partnership forms part of a larger commitment by Woolworths to eliminate food waste, which includes seeing edible food waste distributed by a number of organisations like OzHarvest, and other waste used for animal feed, commercial compost and power generation.
Managing Director of Woolworths Food Co, Brad Banducci, said: 
“Our customers want to see us reducing our food waste. We’ll do that right through the supply chain from selling our odd bunch imperfect fruit and vegetables to donating food through OzHarvest, our other food rescue partners, and other initiatives like animal food and commercial composting.
“Our target remains ambitious but with great partners it is achievable,” he said.
OzHarvest’s CEO and Founder, Ronni Kahn, was thrilled at the Zero Food Waste by 2020 pledge from Woolworths.
“This commitment from Woolworths is a huge advance in our collective fight against food waste. This partnership will allow OzHarvest to divert even more surplus food from landfill and further help Australians in need, addressing the broader issues of food waste, sustainability and food security.”
Ms Kahn said the charity was pushing for yearly waste to be cut by half by 2025.
“We must all take responsibility for the 4 million tonnes of food Australians send to landfill each year. Woolworths’ commitment to Zero Food Waste 2020 shows that they are serious about helping our environment as well as those in need. Now is the time for all Australians to get on board and reduce food waste!” Ms Kahn said.


Seven million serves of food donated by top food makers

A blow has been struck against hunger in Australia today as Foodbank, Australia’s largest hunger relief organisation says that that seven million serves of food have been donated to Australians in need thanks to its first ever Food Fight campaign. 

Several iconic food brands including Kellogg’s, SPC and Ardmona, Wonder White and Helga’s, Vetta, Primo Smallgoods, Moccona and Harris Coffee, partnered with Foodbank to throw their muscle behind a call for much-needed provisions to meet Australia’s growing demand for food welfare. 

With Food Fight products stocked in retail outlets across the country, including Coles, Woolworths and IGA stores, Australians could help fight hunger just by doing their weekly shop. Each time one of the participating Food Fight products was purchased, a donation was made to Foodbank for distribution to Australians seeking food relief. 

Jason Hincks, Chief Executive Officer of Foodbank Australia, says, "It's tremendous to see our Food Fight campaign reach its goal of raising seven million serves of food in its first year. This couldn't have happened without the mighty support of our amazing food industry partners, suppliers, ambassadors and of course the public – who all played their part in our fight against hunger in Australia". 

Celebrity ambassadors and professional chefs who supported the campaign include: Kylie Gillies (The Morning Show), Colin Fassnidge (My Kitchen Rules), Scott Pickett (The Hot Plate), Adam D'Sylva, Jerry Mai, Oliver Gould, Raymond Capaldi and Simon Moss. 

The food donated during Food Fight will go towards helping to feed more than 500,000 people in Australia who access food relief each month, including low income families, the unemployed, the elderly and refugees who are struggling to put food on the table. 

 “This is an amazing achievement, but the fight isn’t over. Over 60,000 of the Australians seeking food relief are still unable to be assisted, with over two thirds of agencies unable to meet the full demand for food relief. So visit our website to sign up as a Food Fighter and find out how you can join the continuing battle,” said Jason.