Feeding The Lucky Country

Foodbank
Melanie Dooner

Melanie Dooner

Melanie has worked as a teacher in Catholic secondary schools and now works as a writer and editor

In the final episode of Back in Time For Dinner, following the decade of the 2000s, Carol Ferrone was in a scene that focused on Australia experiencing a drought. Six short months later this became a startling reality. As part of this scene Carol visited Foodbank, Australia’s largest food charity and distributor of food to millions of Australians each year. 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, food insecurity is “a situation that exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life.”

“I didn’t realise how that visit to Foodbank would affect me, I ended up in tears at the end of that,” Carol said.

In a country long referred to affectionately as the “lucky country”, it’s hard to believe that food insecurity is such a significant issue nationally. “Foodbank contacted me after the show aired and asked me if I’d get involved,” Carol said. “I had no hesitation because this is a situation that should not happen in Australia.”

The 2018 Foodbank Hunger Report identifies some eye-opening statistics about issues around food insecurity in Australia. In the 12 months leading up to the 2018 report released September/October this year, more than 4 million Australians (18%) have experienced food insecurity at some point. More than one in five Australian children (22%) have experienced food insecurity in the last 12 months, and one in three food insecure children go hungry once a month.

In response to the issue of food insecurity for children in particular, Foodbank runs a program called Rumbling Tummies, a breakfast program for schools. As part of this program, Carol said, “They provide a healthy breakfast in school for children who perhaps don’t get that at home.” The aim of the program is to provide beautiful fresh food offered to children in the context of the broader school community.

The Rumbling Tummies report from April 2018 states that “Eating enough food is crucial for healthy growth and development.” (p4). This is no surprise; however, it is the impact on children’s emotional and physical wellbeing that illustrates how devastating this is for children and their families. Amongst the more obvious physical effects hunger has, these children often suffer from emotional difficulties such as more outbursts and tantrums, a decline in happiness, an increase in becoming agitated or irritable, and acting out at school or home as a result of being hungry.

Jeff Klein, President & CEO of the Global Foodbanking Network says, “Foodbanking has two wonderful aspects to it. While we’re feeding people, which is good, we’re also choosing not to dispose of something that would have a negative effect on the environment.”

In reflecting on how average Australians can help those experiencing hunger and food insecurity in our country, Carol Ferrone says it’s the small actions that can go a long way. “Go to the Foodbank social media page and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

 

“(And) Get to know your neighbours and your kid’s friends,” she said. “Be mindful of those around you and keep an eye out for a pattern that may suggest that a family may be struggling. I feel strongly about Foodbank because food, along with air and water, are the essentials for life.”

 

Footnote: Foodbank works with government, individuals, charities, including St Vincent de Paul, other community groups, and thousands of volunteers to distribute food to those most in need.

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