The demand for food relief hit an all-time high when COVID-19 forced governments to take drastic social-distancing measures to slow its spread.
Before the pandemic, though, there were already 5 million Australians experiencing food insecurity. Now, with more than 1 million people out of work, that number has jumped significantly. People are facing hardships they have never had to face.
Food rescue organisation OzHarvest Newcastle has been busy. During the COVID "lockdown" volunteers distributed 6700 food hampers and more than 12,800 cooked meals to people in need.
"So many people were experiencing food insecurity for the first time in their lives," OzHarvest Newcastle city manager Andrew Turner said.
"Many of the charities we support say they could take double or sometimes triple the food to meet demand. In the first couple of months of COVID-19 food volumes fluctuated, initially with a decrease from panic buying in supermarkets to a surge from the closure of the hospitality sector.
"However, food volumes have now returned to normal, and our national food rescue partner, Woolworths, are making up any shortfall on fresh produce."
OzHarvest Newcastle is this year celebrating its 10th anniversary and Turner says it has "come a long way, building up some wonderful relationships with donors and charities". One of those relationships is with Aldi, OzHarvest Newcastle's biggest food donor who, like Woolworths, has been on board since day one.
"We have also had incredible support from local businesses including nib foundation, as well as significant supporters such as Neil Slater and David Saddington," he said.
"In its first year, OzHarvest Newcastle collected 51,798 kilograms of food, delivering 155,000 meals to vulnerable communities.
"In 2019, we rescued 471,767 kilograms of food and delivered 1.4 million meals. We now have three vans and are on track to deliver more than 1.5 million meals - our biggest year yet."
OzHarvest Newcastle consists of a manager, a donor engagement coordinator, a "nourish" education program coordinator, two full-time drivers, two part-time drivers, five casual drivers, and in excess of 100 volunteers.
Read more:OzHarvest Newcastle feeding residents
More than 100 food businesses, including 46 supermarkets, have donated food in 2020. Importantly, Port Waratah Coal Services have increased their support and will be donating a total of $100,000, allowing OzHarvest to deliver 200,000 meals to vulnerable people.
"We are part of our community and together with local organisations we achieve positive outcomes to activate Newcastle as a smart, sustainable and vibrant city," Port Waratah chief executive officer Hennie du Plooy said.
"Support for OzHarvest Newcastle at this time helps to continue and grow their valuable community and humanitarian work across the city, providing aid where it is needed most."
OzHarvest Newcastle supports 119 charities throughout the Hunter Region. All sectors of the community benefit, from students, refugees and the homeless to aged care homes, domestic violence shelters, schools and disability services.
Read more:One woman's fight to stop food waste
So, what can businesses do to get involved?
"Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we have had to put a hold on our engagement opportunities such as Cooking For a Cause," Turner said.
"However, businesses that are able to, can donate food or money to support OzHarvest. And for every $1 donated, OzHarvest is able to deliver two meals to people in need."
Go online to ozharvest.org to see how you can help.
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