We heard it from the Prime Minister’s lips this morning in his address to the nation: “Stop doing it. It’s ridiculous! It’s un-Australian and it must stop.”
The PM was talking about the wave of “hoarding” across Australia as supermarket shelves are stripped of staples such as rice, pasta and toilet paper following the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I am getting more than three times what I used to because people are coming in and asking for more food.” – Anand Tuscano
This over-stockpiling of goods – which Morrison described as “one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis” – is having the greatest impact on those in need.
In the next few weeks, food aid services are at risk of running out of items to provide to people who can’t afford to buy enough groceries.
Anglicare Sydney – which provides affordable food and pantry items to people in need – says it will face shortages soon, if the situation does not change.
Bulk food items (such as tinned vegetables and fruit, baked beans and noodles) are becoming increasingly difficult to buy directly from manufacturers and wholesalers. Donations from community members and businesses are also drying up. At the same time, demand for food assistance is increasing.
This means Anglicare Sydney – and other food relief agencies as well – are becoming reliant on Foodbank Australia to supply the resources they need.
“Before coronavirus, I used to get food from Foodbank twice a week,” said Anand Tuscano, food and goods warehouse coordinator for Anglicare Sydney. “Now I am doing it every day.
“I am getting more than three times what I used to because people are coming in and asking for more food. We are seeing more people visit Anglicare centres for food assistance when they can’t find what they need on the supermarket shelf.
“However, Foodbank recently notified us that their available quantities for these products have gone down and they have put quantity restrictions on items.”
“People are feeling like they want to do something and this is one thing they can do …” – Matt Farmilo
This comes at a time when the resources of most charities are already stretched in the wake of summer bushfires and continuing drought.
During the unprecedented bushfire season, Anglicare Sydney distributed around five months’ worth of food in a six-week period to people affected by the fires throughout the Blue Mountains, Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands areas. This left food supplies in the warehouse lower than usual, Tuscano said.
“We were just recovering from the demand on food supplies from the bushfires when the coronavirus hit.”
Crossway LifeCare in Burwood East, Victoria, could also be facing shortages in its food pantry in coming weeks. However, supplies for the 150 families which the service supports have been buoyed by donations from members of Crossway Baptist Church (which runs LifeCare).
These supplies are going out much faster than they are coming in, according to Matt Farmilo, leader of Crossway LifeCare’s financial team. Even before COVID-19 hit, Farmilo said there was a noticeable increase in the number of people using their service, due to the impact of bushfires on the local community. Now it’s even harder to meet this increased demand.
“We’ve got the same restrictions as everyone else in terms of supermarket shopping, and buying two packs of pasta at a time is not very practical,” Farmilo told Eternity. “But the church has been very generous this week in bringing donations in. So if you looked in there now, it looks good, but we’ll see what’s going to happen over the new few weeks.”
Crossway LifeCare rallied support by ramping up its advertising in the church newsletter, particularly calling for items most in need.
“We’ve had a real emphasis on promoting the food pantry in the last week or so. People are feeling like they want to do something and this is one thing they can do, so we ended up with quite a lot of donations,” said Farmilo.
“Please consider others when you are grocery shopping.” – Anand Tuscano
As well as donating to local food relief agencies, another positive contribution people can make is to resist the temptation to over-shop.
“Please consider others when you are grocery shopping,” Tuscano appealed.
“Do not buy more than you need. Those who are most affected by the panic buying we are seeing at the moment are those who are living week to week.
“Many of these people are unable to buy food in larger quantities and store it.”
For more information about Anglicare’s food assistance programs, visit anglicare.org.au. If you’re in Sydney, donations of non-perishable food items can be dropped off at the Anglicare Sydney Warehouse, 9 Christina Rd, Villawood.
For more information or to donate to Crossway LifeCare, visit crosswaylifecare.org.au.