Agencies Struggle with Christmas Food Shortages
11 December 2012 at 10:41 am
Welfare agencies are reporting a slump in donations in the lead up to Christmas.
Welfare agencies in Victoria say they are struggling to meet rising demand as donations plummet in the lead up to Christmas.
In what is traditionally a busy time for the Not for Profits that provide assistance to families in need, this year agencies have reported a “sharp drop” in basic items like non-perishable food and clothing.
Anglicare Victoria says it is “swamped” by a surge in demand for emergency relief amidst a sharp drop in donations of non-perishable food.
Anglicare says its Mission House in Fitzroy had an estimated shortfall of over $14,000 in October, giving away nearly $20,000 worth of food, clothing and other assistance to families in need, but only receiving $5,400 worth of donated items.
Anglicare Victoria’s chief executive Paul McDonald said that donations are down across the board.
“Usually at this time of year, we have a stockpile of non-perishable food that will see us through the Christmas period and beyond, but in some areas our storage facilities are virtually empty,” McDonald said.
Wesley Mission Victoria says that donations are also down this year with the organisation seeing a slow rate of donations of food and toiletries at its supermarkets despite aiming to feed more than 20,000 families this Christmas.
Community relations manager at Wesley Mission Victoria Paula Gething said that while it was difficult to estimate the shortfall exactly, donations to the organisation are down compared to the same time last year.
“Donations are down more broadly speaking because people are really feeling the pinch this year – especially with the cost of living continuing to increase,” Gething said.
Paul McDonald agreed that the cost of living’s effect on donations was “incredibly worrying”.
“Increased cost pressures such as water, electricity and housing mean, for some households, emergency relief is no longer just for ‘emergencies’. It’s been incorporated into the monthly budget,” he said.
A recent report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that half a million more families are experiencing moderate to severe housing stress than in 2003.
McDonald said that the high cost of necessities is pushing people to the brink.
“There’s been a change in client profile… people telling us they never thought they’d need social welfare, but it’s got to the stage where they can’t feed their family without help,” he said.
“We’re just worried that unless donations pick up, we may fall short as we approach what is traditionally our busiest time of the year.”
Melbourne Citymission says that more and more people are relying on the help of its services through financial donations and its ABC Giving Tree Appeal.
“While we're on a par with last year's donations, we are hoping that in the lead up to Christmas people really dig deep to ensure that we can have gifts for those who are most disadvantaged," Melbourne Citymission’s Sue Parkes said.
Gething said that Wesley Mission staff have noticed a “real shift” in the number of people requesting help, with more and more families and older people seeking assistance.
“Our crisis services have reported a huge surge in the number of people requesting support. In particular, our Ringwood Crisis Service (Wesley Homelessness and Support Services) have had an increase of 29 per cent in 12 months,” Gething said.
“For many families, the cost of living (utilities, rent etc) is just too much to bear and they need support with paying for groceries, financial and material aid like public transport tickets and phone cards.
“Last year, Food For Families raised 46 tonnes of food and more than $27,000 in donations – but this year, things are looking grim,” she said.