Curries, crumbles and soups - ready-made meals as part of our food relief markets
More Australians than ever are struggling to access food. According to Foodbank’s 2022 Hunger Report, 21% of Aussies experienced food security in the previous 12 months - that’s over two million households. Even more alarming is that those with children are the hardest hit, with single-parent households, in particular, being the worst off.
While food insecurity covers a range of experiences including being uncertain about getting enough food, compromising on nutrition and reduced food intake, the most common cause is the rising cost of living. With increasing costs of groceries, food, energy, housing, fuel and medical expenses, over half a million Aussies are struggling to put food on the table daily.
And without serious intervention and assistance, the problem only looks to get worse. In fact, according to Foodbank, half of the households experiencing food insecurity say being unable to afford food is happening more often. This is backed up by their own data, with kilograms of food distributed doubling from 23 million in 2012 to 46 million in 2021. Similarly, meals provided as food relief by OzHarvest increased from 3 million in 2011 to 36 million in 2021, and SecondBite by 2.8 million in 2012 to 41 million in 2020.
MOCSIS volunteers and premesis
While these statistics might come as a shock to many of us, they are the unfortunate reality of large food relief organisations like those mentioned above and smaller, closer-to-home services like MOCSIS. Monash Oakleigh Community Support and Information Service, or MOCSIS, is a local community house that has been serving the Oakleigh area since 1975. The volunteer-run organisation offers support services - emergency relief, tax help, negotiation and advocacy, assistance in completing forms and no interest loan schemes - to its disadvantaged clients who are in need of assistance, information and aid.
Earlier in the year, Corner Store Network were successful applicants for a Victorian government grant to provide food relief to people in need. To maximise the reach and impact within our local area, we thought there was no better organisation to become our delivery partner than MOCSIS, who had direct access to the people who needed help the most. We agreed to collaborate on four “Market Days” across March and April, where we provided fresh fruit and vegetables, long-life goods, our home made preserves, frozen meals, soups and fruit crumbles to MOCSIS, and they distributed them for free to registered clients.
We provided 190 meals, 225 jars of Corner Store preserves, 1977 kilos of fresh produce and 425 kilos of pantry staples. That’s 2657 kilos of food all up!
As you’re probably aware, we run weekly preserving sessions where volunteers turn rescued produce into delicious jams, pickles and other preserves. Naturally, this group leapt at the chance to contribute to food relief via our markets. Under the guidance of our Preserving Coordinators - Kathy and Felicity - over eight days in the kitchen, a rotation of volunteers put food preservation on hold to assist in cooking soup, dhal, curry, pasta bake, pie and lots of crumbles for our Market Days with MOCSIS.
These food relief efforts were only made possible by two dedicated teams of volunteers - both our own and those at MOCSIS. The simple fact is that without assistance from community members, food waste programs like ours and organisations like MOCSIS would struggle to exist. Given that it’s National Volunteer Week, we wanted to extend the biggest thank you to every single individual who contributed to the success of our food relief markets - from peeling carrots and labelling containers to washing dishes and handing over meals. None of it would have been possible without our volunteers, so thank you!
While we proudly fed many households in the local area, we also want to acknowledge that irregular food relief markets are not a long-term solution to Australia’s growing problem of food insecurity. Community services like ours and MOCSIS’ rely on two things to operate: funding and volunteers. Government grants are few and far between, so if you have the means, please consider donating to our preserving program. If instead, you’d like to contribute time, we are always looking for new volunteers to join our friendly community, so enquire about volunteering in Melbourne with us. For those on the fence, get the low down from three of our amazing volunteers here!