Foodbank is the pantry of Australian charities. We receive food and grocery products from farmers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and the public and make them available to Australia’s hard working charities and community groups.
According to the Australian Council of Social Service, 2.2 million Australians are currently estimated to be living in poverty including 12% of Australian children. We believe this provides a good indicator of the number of Australians at risk of food insecurity because in these low income households food is often the only discretionary item in the budget and, therefore, is likely to be reduced to meet nondiscretionary costs such as rent and bills.
The Australian Government provides support to Foodbank in the form of funds to help us purchase key staple foods that we don’t obtain via traditional rescue channels. The Government is becoming increasingly aware of the depth of the food insecurity problem in Australia and hopefully this will lead to even greater action to combat it.
Foodbank is a federated organisation with the national body based in Sydney and representation in every State as well as the Northern Territory. It was first established in 1992 in New South Wales and then expanded in 1993 to Victoria and Western Australia, followed by Queensland in 1995, South Australia in 2000 and Tasmania and the Northern Territory in 2010. The overarching national body was formed in 1996.
Foodbank remains a lean organisation. Our overheads represent a modest 2.9% of the total value of the food and groceries we distribute.
Foodbank has 90 paid staff in total including office and warehouse personnel and drivers. In addition Foodbank has an average of 100 volunteers a day around the country, doing everything from packing food, to driving trucks and answering phones.
All the companies you’d expect and many more: retailers such as Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and IGA; manufacturers such as Kraft Foods, Goodman Fielder, Nestlé, Unilever, Campbell Arnott’s, Coca-Cola, George Weston Foods, Mars, McCain, Simplot and Sanitarium; suppliers to quick serve restaurants such as McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut; and fresh food producers such as Lion, Fonterra, Moraitis and Montague. In addition hundreds of smaller growers, manufacturers and distributors. In total 50 national and 650 local companies donate to Foodbank.
Foodbank receives support from a number of non-food companies who assist with funds and other essential services. For example Toll provides transport, Visy and Amcor providing packaging, ANZ provide free banking, Virgin provide flights, Quest and Rydges provide free hotel rooms for Foodbank staff, KPMG provides auditing services, Microsoft provides software and CSIRO provides Foodbank Australia with an office.
In addition the volume of rescued food doesn’t meet demand in particular there is a significant gap between the amount of staple foods obtained and what is needed by the charities to provide filling and nutritious meals. So, in a collaborative supply program we partner with farmers, manufacturers and retailers who provide ingredients and services to produce, process, package and transport essential items such as breakfast cereals, pasta and sauce and tinned fruit and vegetables. Financial donations from the public and corporate sector help to fund the components that cannot be donated.
Some costs, such as electricity, fuel, storage, transport, salaries, insurance aren’t easy to cover. We have a small handling fee on some foods to help cover those sorts of costs.
Foodbank follows the food industry’s handling and safety code, HACCP (determined by ANZFA) and doesn’t distribute food which has exceeded its use by date. However ‘best before’ is an advisory date code and most food is perfectly safe and palatable to eat for some time after this date. ‘Best before’ products are assessed conservatively, on an individual basis by food type.
Like any ethical issue, Foodbank staff members hold varying views on this issue. Most believe lotteries should contribute to addressing the social problems which they, along with many other legal pursuits, help to create. Some say that lottery money is just money and differs from taxes raised at bookmakers, casinos or on alcohol, tobacco and pornography only by being labelled.
Foodbank never wants to deprive local groups of donated food; we are all trying to help feed people in need. We encourage groups whose donations are redirected to Foodbank to become Foodbank members so they can access the full range of food in our warehouses. This helps to stretch your dollar further and meets a wider range of your needs.
The satisfaction of knowing you are making a difference in a smart and sustainable way by providing a pathway from the food and grocery industry to struggling Australians in need. Not only are people given assistance but food doesn’t go to waste thus avoiding an environmental tragedy.
We’d love to be out of business, but sadly it is likely to take more than ten years to achieve an Australia without hunger.