26 October 2020

The COVID pandemic has put many of our most vulnerable in a state of crisis. Two particular areas of concern in my electorate are food insecurity and aged care. Recently I had the opportunity to visit Foodbank New South Wales and talk to their CEO, John Robertson. John has long been a passionate advocate for those in the community who need support. Foodbank provides fresh and packaged food for charities and community groups supporting those in our community who need it most. On the day that I was there there were fresh mandarins, lettuce and mountains of bread, as well as other staples such as pasta and canned tomatoes—a full list of varied and amazing products being kept out of landfill and helping people. Foodbank also supports breakfast clubs in schools, and during the disastrous bushfires and floods at the beginning of 2020 they helped get food to people in need all over New South Wales.

Too many school children start the day without breakfast because of circumstances beyond their control. Giving them breakfast not only helps with their learning and behaviour but helps families as well. Foodbank works with the entire Australian food and grocery sector, including farmers, wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers, to address issues of food waste by redirecting product from landfill. Unsurprisingly, demand for food relief has surged this year. By the end of September, demand was up 47 per cent over pre-COVID times, with a further spike of 25 per cent expected as JobKeeper and JobSeeker are rolled back. Statistics from Foodbank suggest that 43 per cent of food-insecure Australians are now going without eating for a whole day each week. This compares with 30 per cent a year ago.

Australia has a reputation for being a wealthy country, but even so, food insecurity is a reality for an increasing number of us. With work drying up, casual workers and international students are facing real crisis as they go hungry, because there's no means to buy even the basics. Universities such as Western Sydney University have supported their international students, but many other students are feeling the strain. Two-fifths of Australians experience food insecurity because they are low-income earners, pensioners, casual workers, job seekers or workers who go without food to pay their mortgage or rent. Foodbank helps bridge these gaps, and I commend the volunteers and thank the CEO, John Robertson, for the important work being done to ensure our fellow Australians don't go hungry.