Community groups helping vulnerable community members to access food are calling for support from residents and businesses, with volunteers and donations needed.
Outer East Foodshare, which provides donated food to agencies across Yarra Ranges, is calling on community members to lend a hand.
Secretary, Marilyn Lambert, said that support could be volunteering to drive the van to collect donations, donating grown or surplus food, or making phone calls from home.
“We’re keen to work with our volunteers to find what works for them and their time,” Ms Lambert said.
“Some people pick up the van, drive to Food Bank Victoria and drive back. You’d need to be able to lift boxes and have a driver’s licence for that, but if you didn’t have a licence you could be an off-sider to help with loading the van, or you could be ringing growers, talking to our local food retailers, finding out what’s feasible in terms of donations of excess food.
“We have a person who is just growing silver beet for us, because she can and it’s nutritious and healthy. That’s not a really big time commitment, but it all helps.”
Volunteer Eddie, Cr Terry Avery, Shereen Barker and Marilyn Lambert at Outer East Foodshare
Outer East Foodshare distributes food to residents across Yarra Ranges through partner agencies such as Discovery Community Care in Lilydale, the Redwood Centre in Warburton and Healesville Interchurch Community Care (HICCI) in the Yarra Valley.
Council supports Outer East Foodshare through its multi-year Partnership Grant funding.
Shereen Barker from Discovery Community Care said there wasn’t much awareness of food relief organisations in the wider community, which made it difficult to receive donations.
“The people who use our organisations know about the network and they’ll suggest places to their friends, but there isn’t a huge community awareness of what we do,” she said.
“If you have excess food, I would say there are a lot of agencies in Yarra Ranges that would appreciate a call.
“A call is free, and the chat is free, so you can look at linking in with different organisations.
“We try to give people dignity – if it’s something you should chuck, chuck it out, but if it’s edible, let’s use it.”
Volunteer, Eddie Dong, said he previously worked in catering, where he saw the level of excess food that went to waste.
“I have a history of working in the food industry and catering for companies – one of the things that stood out for me was a lot of places I worked had a lot of food waste, and we need to solve that problem and how to better utilize the food we have.
“It’s fascinating that Melbourne is one of the more livable cities, but there are pockets of inequality and we need to ask as a community, how can we help ourselves and others to grow?”
Melba Ward Councillor, Terry Avery, encouraged residents to support Outer East Foodshare and their local food relief agencies by volunteering, donating food or making a tax-deductible donation.
“We have a fantastic amount of people across Yarra Ranges who give their time and skills to help make a difference through organisations like Outer East Foodshare, but there’s always room for more people to lend a hand,” Cr Avery said.
“Lending a hand can be as simple as donating some fruit and veggies you’ve grown at home, picking up extra food in your weekly shop to pass on, or helping with the van or phones for a couple hours where you can.
“Now I’ve been out to see the work done here, I’ll be telling my friends about this and asking them to pass it on.”