Chefs Steve and Brad, their food driver Will and Sally Anderson at the Tweed Heads Bowls Club.
Chefs Steve and Brad, their food driver Will and Sally Anderson at the Tweed Heads Bowls Club.

Desperate call as charities struggle with spike in demand

FOOD is the greatest need for people in the Tweed area and with the majority of food for the needy coming from outside the area charities are calling on local businesses to contribute.

OzHarvest Gold Coast manager Sally Anderson said food demand had increased "a lot" and some of the charities they supported such as Agape Outreach didn't get enough food to meet their needs.

"Our Gold Coast operation has three refrigerated vehicles. We do a northern, central and southern run. We have a national donor - Woolworths - and other donors," she said.

"We try to get the most beautiful surplus food we can. We drop them off to the 60 plus charities from the Gold Coast to the Tweed."

Ms Anderson said the drivers checked the food they received to make sure of its quality then weighed it and divided into categories of fruit and vegetables, dairy and meat before delivering it to a variety of charities.

Crisis centres, domestic violence shelters, youth programs and charities that deliver food to their clients as groceries or cooked meals are among their clients.

Since COVID-19 restrictions they have been unable to deliver to school breakfast programs.

Ms Anderson said before Covid the organisation collected about 2.5 ton of food and had been able to maintain a steady flow but had increased deliveries from once to three times a week.

Ms Anderson said the charity would like to gain sponsorship from local Tweed businesses or food from local commercial businesses.

"Only 15 per cent of the area's food for people in need was being supplied by Tweed donors," she said.

OzHarvest has expanded on its fresh food delivery in establishing a partnership to deliver ingredients to Tweed Heads Bowls Club to supply about 250 cooked meals a week to Tweed charities.

"We care a lot about the Tweed and we see there's a great demand there," she said.

"We're doing all we can."

Agape Outreach founder Theresa Mitchell said the charity was "just not keeping up" with demand.

"We're reaching further from Byron Bay to Runaway Bay and not seeing as much food as we had before," she said.

Ms Mitchell said when Covid-restrictions came in people came to them who hadn't eaten for days.

New Zealand families who were not eligible for government benefits, international students and seniors who couldn't afford food were among the people who came for help.

"We're handing out 150-200 hot meals a day and putting together hampers for families to take home," she said.

"We need to give away 500kg a day and are only getting 1600kg a week," she said.

Ms Mitchell is calling on the community to assist with donations of pantry items or food vouchers from Coles and Woolworths.

John Lee of You Have a Friend said coronavirus restrictions had prevented his group from feeding homeless people on the street as they usually do because restrictions prevented people from gathering.

He said they were instead delivering items including blankets, sleeping bags and food to Fred's Place drop in centre.

Mr Lee said Fred's Place, operated by St Vincent de Paul was doing a great job to help people who were homeless.

He said government was also doing a wonderful job as the coronavirus crisis and threat of transmission had led government to locate homeless people into hotels and then into units.

St Vincent de Paul spokesman Robin Osborne said the demand for its services had been significant with about 90 people a day coming through the centre which provides light meals

and computer access but not accommodation for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Mr Osborne said the organisation had identified food to be the greatest need in the area.

"The main concern for people there is food," he said.

"They sacrifice having food to pay the rent of electricity. Sadly many people are going hungry to pay the bills."

Articles contributed by Margie Maccoll are supported by the Judith Neilson Institute of Journalism and Ideas.

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