Border food relief agencies highlight unemployment and lack of transport

GROWING THEN GIVING: Birallee Park Neighbourhood House volunteer John Harding works in the vegetable patch, which provides ingredients for the group's food relief program. Picture: ELENOR TEDENBORG

GROWING THEN GIVING: Birallee Park Neighbourhood House volunteer John Harding works in the vegetable patch, which provides ingredients for the group's food relief program. Picture: ELENOR TEDENBORG

LACK of employment, infrastructure and public transport contribute to regional people running out of food.

Border relief agencies have not been surprised to hear 45 per cent more rural residents in Victoria experience food insecurity compared with those in cities.

The figure comes from a Department of Health and Human Services discussion paper on the state’s rural and regional health system.

Albury Wodonga Regional FoodShare manager Peter Matthews said unemployment and underemployment remained two primary factors why people sought emergency food relief.

“In the household, they just simply run out of money to meet the day-to-day and weekly needs of a family,” he said.

Albury-Wodonga offered various support programs but smaller centres had fewer options.

“A lot of the rural towns in southern NSW, there’s virtually no food relief formally available,” Mr Matthews said.

“So if people want emergency food, they have to travel.”

Helen Masterman-Smith, a volunteer at The Commons in North Albury, said limited public transport made it more difficult for people on low income to access outlets.

“The level of disability and just general illness in that community is extremely high, so having to walk to a location is quite tricky as well,” she said.

“We had a woman come in the other day, she’d just been diagnosed with cervical cancer, she didn’t have the $3 or the $2.30 or whatever it was to catch the bus to hospital and they wouldn’t let her on.” 

Birallee Park Neighbourhood House project manager Sue Slater said specific issues such as the recent dairy farming crisis increased demand for food relief.

“We find that social isolation and not wanting to ask for help are two of the reasons for accessing meals from us,” she said.

“There’s a lot of stoic farmers out there, they might have friends and relatives who are asking for help for them.”

Mr Matthews said supermarkets in rural towns might be slightly more expensive than those in larger centres, but this was a lesser factor.

“It’s simply lack of income that’s the driver,” he said.

“Younger people and older people present more often for food, particularly younger people who are no longer at home.”

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