24 March 2020

Sharing the food: our vulnerable are hungry for help

| Communities@Work
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Food shortages at supermarkets

Food shortages at supermarkets are having a flow-on effect for community food pantries. Photos: Communities@Work.

Panic buying of food in supermarkets is hurting our most vulnerable people as the scarcity of food is making it increasingly difficult for many charities to keep their food pantries stocked with essentials.

Communities@Work, Canberra’s largest non-profit organisation, is hard at work to ensure its two community food pantries can continue to support the disadvantaged and vulnerable members of the Canberra community, particularly during the coronavirus crisis.

The Director of Social Programs and Volunteering, Ruth Zanker, concedes a little help from the community in these uncertain times would be very welcome.

“Our community pantries are set up to assist anyone who’s experiencing hardship in the ACT,” she said. “And we’re very proud that we’re able to help a really diverse range of people within our community,” Ms Zanker said.

“Over 100 households a day are visiting our Tuggeranong and Gungahlin community food pantries to access fresh fruit and vegetables, household goods, tinned goods, bread, frozen food and personal hygiene items,” Ruth explained.

Communities@Work food pantries

Communities@Work food pantries feed over 100 households a day.

“And in the present climate of handwashing and elbow bumps, we’re also giving out bars of soap and handwashing instruction flyers to all our community pantry clients to encourage good handwashing and hygiene practices within the community.

“We’ve also adapted our processes around food handling and restocking and client and visitor contact to support ACT Health’s social distancing and hygiene recommendations to meet the needs of the changing coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.”

Communities@Work pantry supplies are sourced from a range of different places including surplus donated food from Aldi, Woolworths and Coles, all of whom Ruth praised as “amazing supporters”.

But the shortage of food at supermarkets is having a flow-on effect.

According to Foodbank, which describes itself as the food pantry for the Australian charity sector, greater demand for its products from charities nationwide is forcing it to put limits on the amount charities can access.

Normal deliveries of donated surplus food

Normal deliveries of donated surplus food from supermarkets has been progressively dropping.

“Our clients struggle under normal circumstances. So, in the current climate, our services are more crucial than ever,” Ruth said.

“We are currently keeping up with demand – to a certain extent – and are working through a range of scenarios. But the future is so uncertain that we really need the local community’s support now to make sure we can continue to support our vulnerable and disadvantaged clients.

“We’re calling on the Canberra community – individuals and businesses – to donate non-perishable essential items to our pantries,” said Ruth.

“So, if there’s the opportunity to grab an extra something off the shelves – not that there’s much on the shelves at the moment – we would greatly appreciate it,” she urged.

And Canberra is listening.

In the midst of panic buying and fights over basic supplies, the Canberra community is beginning to rally with kindness projects and offers of help, just as they did during the bushfires.

In recent weeks generous individuals, businesses and even government departments have reached out to Communities@Work with offers of support and donations. Shopping centres like Gungahlin Village, Cooleman Court and South.Point are starting food donation drives to ensure Communities@Work’s pantries stay stocked. Members of the Canberra community are encouraged to donate food and other everyday items at these donation bins and drop off points.

Communities@Work_Photo 4_Story 5_xmas donation trolleys

Ruth Zanker with shopping centre community donations. More donations are once again needed to keep food pantries stocked for the vulnerable.

Gungahlin Village Centre Manager Bri Nix says her shopping centre is encouraging its customers to donate to the Communities@Work community pantry as it places a high priority on supporting vulnerable people and believes this should be a joint community responsibility. It’s leading the way with a $1000 donation and an assurance that all customer donations will be used immediately to help pantry clients.

“The shared sentiment between Gungahlin Village and Communities@Work that it takes a whole village to support each other is especially true right now, and acts of kindness and support are having a big impact everywhere,” said Ms Nix.

“Many of us haven’t yet gotten over the bushfire season, but we need to pull together again as a society and think of others besides ourselves – especially those experiencing hardship. We did a great job during the bushfires. Let’s do it again during COVID-19.”

Donation drives by local businesses

Donation drives by local businesses (like KPMG, above) and government departments are a vital support to allow Communities@Work to continue supporting its clients – especially now.

Communities@Work food pantries

Tuggeranong Community Centre: 245 Cowlishaw Street, Greenway

Gungahlin Community Centre: 47 Ernest Cavanagh St, Gungahlin.

How can I help the Canberra community during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Crisis?

  • Donate food and other essential items to a Communities@Work pantry
  • Donate to a donation bin at selected shopping centres
  • Donate money to Communities@Work which will be used to stock up the community pantry
  • Order online at catch.com (and eventually Coles or Woolworths) and have items delivered directly to the Tuggeranong pantry.
  • Volunteer to help out with collecting or sorting food.

For further information on how you can help Communities@Work please visit their website.

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