29 July 2022

Nine million meals delivered but OzHarvest Canberra's busier than ever

| Claire Fenwicke
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OzHarvest Canberra

OzHarvest Canberra delivered its nine millionth meal this week, which went to PCYC Canberra. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Throwing open the bright yellow truck doors revealed a delivery of desperately needed food for locals under stress.

OzHarvest Canberra delivered its nine millionth meal on Thursday (28 July) into the arms of PCYC Canberra.

The past two years of COVID stress and current rising cost of living meant both charities were under more pressure than ever before.

“Our two volunteer vans are out and about in the community every week stopping goods from going to waste and delivering it to charities, schools and community groups to help those in need,” OzHarvest Canberra manager Belinda Barnier said.

“There is no doubt the past two years have been incredibly difficult, with a dramatic rise in demand for our services. We are now delivering more than 15,000 meals every week.”

But the nine millionth meal was still a huge milestone, also signifying just how much local food had been kept out of landfill.

“More than 3,000 tonnes of surplus food has been saved,” Ms Barnier said.

“The substance of community is all about contribution, and if we don’t look after the most needy in our community, it’s a very tragic state of affairs.”

PCYC Canberra currently has 688 families and disadvantaged young people as clients, with many taking part in the charity’s all-day programs.

CEO Cheryl O’Donnell said food actually wasn’t part of the charity’s budget, but she found it was an important service that needed to be delivered.

“We’ve sat down and cooked up the kids a baked dinner, and half the kids didn’t even know what a baked dinner was,” she said.

“A lot of kids that come to our programs haven’t eaten, so we’re able to provide them with food packs to take home, and we can stock our kitchen for people that come in. So to provide this type of service to these kids, for us, is just phenomenal.”

The food was also used in PCYC Canberra’s hospitality and barista courses for young people, giving them the chance to gain real experience before heading into the workforce.

Ms O’Donnell also described the flow-on impacts that COVID lockdowns and cost of living pressures were having on the charity.

“The last lockdown was a horrendous time, we had people contacting us who weren’t previously on our books,” she said.

“There’s still lots of people out of work and costs have skyrocketed, for us our fuel costs have doubled in the past three months, so we’re running out of our budget halfway through the month.

“So the demands on our families is just horrendous at the moment, and it’s such a sad thing to see in this community.”

OzHarvest also has a nutritionist on hand to educate people on how to use and cook the food they’re provided, giving lessons three times a week.

READ ALSO ‘A very difficult place to be poor’: collaboration key to drive Canberra’s food relief success

But while the charity had plenty of donors in terms of food, their client list continued to grow.

Ms Barnier asked if the community could also lend a hand.

“We need the cash donated online to OzHarvest to keep our wheels turning,” she said.

“It does cost to have drivers, it does cost to have an office, and it does cost to actually physically deliver the food to all our agencies.”

Every $1 donated delivered two meals to people in need across Canberra and Queanbeyan.

PCYC Canberra

PCYC Canberra supported 688 families and disadvantaged young people. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

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