Eltham Foodbank needs food

By ERIKA VENTER


Empty shelves are threatening to close the Eltham Foodbank's doors.

Having collected just 50 per cent on the previous year's haul during its 2012 food drive, Eltham Community Care chairman Gary Rodgers says the organisation is in dire straits, and urgently needs more donations to meet the increasing demand for food parcels.

"Last year we collected about half, and that year was about half on the previous year. We used to get around 1-3 families per week. Now we get between seven and 10 families. We cannot give the size food parcels we have in the past. We are just inundated."

The foodbank helps families with up to three parcels in a 12-month period.

Gary says some people view the parcel as "a right" and can get "quite abusive", but that most are desperate for help.

"We do not give a week's food; we are only a top-up. It is really just to tie them over."

With around 95 per cent of their clients receiving an unemployment benefit, Gary says lack of stable income is a big part of their problem.

"People are working, but with a lot of our residents doing factory work, if there is no work people get laid off, or they work less hours. This has been happening for some time. If your annual income is cut by two-thirds, you struggle. You still need to pay the bills. Things have gotten dearer too."

Eltham Community Care also runs the adjacent op shop, which helps pay the bills, but Gary says it does not stretch to also buy food to meet the increasing demand. The foodbank, serving the Eltham and Kaponga areas, is dependent on donations. Adding to the problem is quick-fix meals that are increasingly being perceived as the norm.

"We give some people flour, and they do not know what to do with it. We have tried giving recipes in the past, but we are fighting a fast-food culture," Gary says.

To help people help themselves, the foodbank is considering a project to help set up easy-care vegetable patches at homes, so people can then harvest what they need and give a percentage of the vegetables to the foodbank to help others in need.

Gary says he knows "things are tight", but he appeals for any food items to be donated.

"Beverages, spreads, meat, vegetables, toiletries ... nothing goes to waste."

Foodbanks in Stratford and Inglewood say they are still well-stocked following successful drives last year, and that they help each other out where possible.

To help, drop off food at the foodbank in Bridge Street, Wednesdays 10.30am-noon, or phone (06) 764 8384 during those hours to arrange for a pick-up. Unperishables can also be dropped off at the Stratford Press to be delivered to the Eltham Foodbank.

- Stratford Press

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