For those of us complaining about the choices surrounding the daily question ‘what are we going to have for dinner tonight?’ Spare a thought for the three thousand, four hundred people in our region who have no choices, and simply run out of food every day.

Albury Wodonga Regional Food Share is making good in-roads into emergency food relief, but Manager Peter Matthews concedes there’s still a long way to go.

“It’s quite concerning and more common than anybody realises,” Peter said.

“Running out of food is a consequence of running out of cash – mainly through rent stress or utility stress.

“Many people can go from having a comfortable middle class existence, but a medical emergency, for example, can clean out the cash reserves of these families really quickly, particularly if they don’t have insurances.”

Albury Wodonga Regional Food Share acts as a warehouse hub for donated or rescued food across the region. Volunteers then spend their time packing and assembling orders for collection or distribution to service agencies who deal directly with people in need.

Food is also provided to a range of cooking groups including Carevan, Birallee Neighbourhood House, TAFE and various schools.

Supermarkets provide most of the donated and rescued food, but there are shortfalls that constantly need to be filled.

“We have about nine hundred thousand kilograms of food coming through the warehouse annually, but that dipped a little in 2017,” Peter said.

“With the ‘war on waste’ publicity, supermarkets, who are our main source of food, have responded and changed their systems, so there’s less excess food available in the system.”

This is where generous corporate and community organisations are helping to fill the short fall with precious cash donations, including an annual donation of 20 thousand dollars over the past three years from the SS&A, which has just been renewed for another three years.

“Their generosity has been fantastic,” Peter said.

“One of the things we want to do is ensure we get that balanced diet, so we purchase about 20 thousand dollars’ worth of fresh food annually just to fill those gaps.

“Donated and rescued food is the bulk of our food supply, but that’s very contingent on supply – at the moment we’ve got masses of carrots and citrus and apples still coming in, but we need to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables to supplement it.”

While Albury Wodonga Regional Food Share is clearly a much needed resource, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

“Our challenge is to remind people that there are people every day in our region who run out of food,” Peter said.

“We know we only hit 50% of them though, because people have to make an approach to an agency for help, and some people won’t do that.

“A common scenario is that parents will eat one meal a day, or change the type of food such as cheap bread, vegemite sandwiches, baked beans on toast. You can live on that for a little while, but long term your health is going to be impacted by a poor diet.

“We want balanced, healthy food getting out there.”

For more on Albury Wodonga Regional Food Share: http://foodshare.org.au/

Produced by Border Cafe in partnership with SS&A.