COVID eats into rural and remote hunger

Albury Wodonga FoodShare manager Peter Matthews (left) with Doug Cameron in the service’s Wodonga warehouse.

Covid-19 has provided some important examples of food system insecurity across the world and in Australia. A recent report by Albury Wodonga Regional FoodShare, North East Victoria and Border communities’ food relief agency, highlights the greater insecurities faced by rural people.

Some of the statistics are startling: that people living in regional areas experience an almost 25 per cent increased risk of poverty and are 33 per cent more likely to experience food insecurity than people living in our Australia’s cities.

The report offers a conservative projection of an additional 20,000 people in our cross-border catchment needing food relief due to Covid-19, a 42 per cent increase on current numbers. Many of these people will experience hardship and unemployment as a result of the pandemic, finding themselves in poverty and accessing food relief for the first time.

Earlier this week an online conversation hosted by the Australian Rural Health Alliance brought together experts to discuss food security issues in Indigenous communities. One notable comment is that there are significantly more Australians suffering food insecurity than official figures show – and this was before the Covid-19 pandemic. Ronni Kahn from Ozharvest estimates that some five million Australians needed food relief in the year prior to Covid-19 and that the pandemic has pushed an additional half million people into this group. She noted that in the last three months, Ozharvest has rescued 10 million kilograms, the same amount as in the previous twelve months.

For the first time in 16 years, Ozharvest has had to purchase food to maintain their deliveries through their 1300-1600 charitable partners which are mostly in cities.

I met with Peter Matthews at Albury Wodonga Regional Foodshare this week and he told me about their work.


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