Council commits to landmark food relief agreement

The
Greater Geelong Council will make a major investment of $1.7 million over five
years in a bid to make sure all local families can put food on the table.

During Tuesday night’s meeting the council agreed to enter into a landmark
agreement with the Geelong Food Relief Centre. The agreement aims to
significantly increase the region’s food distribution and storage capacity and
better prepare for the challenges of food insecurity, which effects the most
vulnerable in our community.

The council committed to spending up to $1 million to renovate a building at 37
Morgan Street, North Geelong to make it fit-for-purpose for food relief. This
opportunity provides a cost efficient way of repurposing an existing facility
to address an immediate need in the community food relief system.

The site will then be leased by the Geelong Food Relief Centre and used as a
central point for food distribution across Geelong.

The council has also agreed to provide $100,000 in 2020-21 and $150,000 in each
of the following four years to:

  • Help with the
    facility’s operating costs such as rent, maintenance and electricity;
  • Strengthen the
    centre’s ability to attract volunteers and philanthropic assistance; and
  • Strengthen
    collaboration across the entire food relief network.

The council’s financial commitment is a direct response to rising food
insecurity in Greater Geelong.

It includes a proposal for the Geelong Food Relief Centre to put in place a
revised governance structure aimed at strengthening collaboration with other key
stakeholders, including food suppliers and the Geelong Food Assistance Network.

It’s estimated the region’s current food
assistance system provides around 2.16 million meals every year.

However, Foodbank estimates there is a need for 2.48 million meals per year,
meaning there is a shortfall of around 350,000 meals.

Given the significant growth in Greater
Geelong’s population, forecasts suggest the shortfall could climb as high as 1
million meals a year by 2031 if the current system remains unchanged.

The new arrangement will increase the capacity of the Geelong Food Relief
Centre and aims to see local agencies and food suppliers working more closely
together to provide meals across the region.

The changes have been developed with the input of a stakeholder group chaired
by former mayor Keith Fagg, and featuring representation from the council (Councillor
Pat Murnane) and 12 local relief organisations.

They’ve also been shaped by the recommendations of an independent Food
Assistance Report commissioned by the City of Greater Geelong.

Mayor Stephanie Asher:

It’s incredibly sad that an increasing number of people here in our Greater
Geelong region are struggling to put food on the table. The thought of children
going to bed hungry is particularly heartbreaking.

This investment
is a serious and genuine attempt by the council to address what we agree is an
unacceptable situation.

Through this
partnership with local agencies we aim to increase our region’s ability to offer
food assistance, so that everyone in our community has access to the nutrition
they need.

Councillor Pat Murnane, Chair – Community Health, Wellbeing and
Safety portfolio:

The model being
put in place is an industry first. Never before have all of a city’s major
players in the food relief sector come together under the one roof to create a
collaborative system such as this. I believe other cities will copy what
Geelong has done.

Importantly,
the model has been developed with input from across the sector and has the
written support of many of these organisations. It’s also in line with the
recommendations of the independent report commissioned by the council.

It is a significant achievement for Geelong and a meaningful step in addressing
the distressing reality that food insecurity in our city is on the rise.

In reality though, this is only a small step on the road to genuine social
equity for our community.

The fact that we need this facility to support
50,000 Geelong residents, 15,000 of whom will be heavily dependent on
it, shows the depth of social issues Geelong and Australia generally needs
to be working on in the years ahead.

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