Foodbank backflip helps local charity

Foodbank backflip helps local charity

The Pantry Club, a Strathalbyn-based food assistance program for vulnerable residents, is one local charity thankful for the Federal Government’s recent decision to reverse the funding cut to Foodbank.

Photo: Country Life Compassion Community Liaison Officer Paquita Wise, left, shows Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie some of the offerings at The Pantry Club with the club’s co-ordinator, Matthew Boyle, and Chairperson Lew McMaster.

The program, run by Country Life Compassion, sources many of its staple food products from Foodbank to service nearly 30 clients a fortnight who pay a small fee to purchase a range of groceries.

Country Life Compassion Chairperson Lew McMaster said his not-for-profit “depended” on Foodbank to source basic items such as rice, pasta and cereal to supplement other donated perishable goods, many of them from local businesses such as Woolworths.

“We have regular clients but we also have new ones coming in,” he said.

“When we first started in 2012 we had a lot of families but now we notice it’s more single people who are really struggling, especially when most of their Newstart or other payments go on rent.”

Foodbank raised the alarm about the future of their Key Staples Program last week when the Department of Social Services cut their funding nearly in half to $430,000 under the latest round of the Financial Wellbeing and Capability Fund.

According to Foodbank, the organisation has relied on annual funding of $1 million since 2009 to run the Key Staples Program which involves working with manufacturers, suppliers, and farmers to secure staple food stuffs such as rice, cereal, fruit and vegetables.

In the four financial years to 2014 the organisation was actually given an extra $500,000 in discretionary funding to run the same program. However, since a change in Government, that funding has been steadily cut.

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie welcomed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision to restore nearly $400,000 to Foodbank but said a long-term solution needed to be found.

“Funding for food relief has been frozen for the past decade and yet our charities and not-for-profits are struggling to keep up with demand,” Rebekha said.

"It’s imperative that Government fund this sector properly and provide long-term funding security, not piecemeal funding that means organisations such as Foodbank waste time going cap in hand to the Minister every year.

“The Government also needs to listen to the call of ACOSS and the Business Council of Australia and raise Newstart and Youth Allowance by $75 a week and they need to urgently review the Commonwealth Rent Assistance payment for Australians on the pension.

“Meanwhile, if local members of our community would like to help The Pantry Club they can contact Country Life Compassion on (08) 7511 7212 or they can drop off non-perishable food stuffs to my electorate office in Gawler Street, Mount Barker.”

Country Life Compassion is also working with local churches and charities for the district’s annual Christmas Hamper Appeal.

The appeal distributes more than 120 hampers to vulnerable families.

Photo: Country Life Compassion Community Liaison Officer Paquita Wise, right, and Country Life Compassion Chairperson Lew McMaster show Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie their plans to build a multi-purpose community space behind their headquarters in Chapel Street in Strathalbyn. Rebekha has written a letter of support for their grant application through the Infrastructure Projects stream of the Building Better Regions Fund.