Demand for food aid skyrockets as closures bite

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Food banks across Australia are distributing as many baskets in a day as they normally do in a week as coronavirus lockdowns wreak havoc, The new daily can reveal.

There is a huge backlog of requests for support in Victoria and NSW, with food banks saying they are experiencing unprecedented demand, including during the disastrous 2019-2020 bushfire season.

It comes as new research from the Australian Council of Social Services shows that nearly 90% of people with the lowest incomes in lockdown do not benefit from the COVID-19 disaster payout.

A “mind-blowing” demand for food aid

Proprietary data of Food Bank Australia, the nation’s leading provider of food and groceries to charities, shows the organization distributes more than 2,500 food baskets and parcels per day, which it would normally do in a week.

That’s the equivalent of 2,289,000 kilograms of food and groceries each week.

In New South Wales they are trying to overcome a backlog of 10,000 requests and in Victoria police forced Foodbank to shut down just 90 minutes after it opened last Friday because demand for the service was so high the queue waiting extended to the west. Door bridge.

Foodbank Australia chief executive Brianna Casey said the demand was “mind-boggling”.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in food aid during the lockdown,” Ms. Casey said.

“In NSW, we get thousands of inquiries. We have actually seen a 200% increase in food aid over the past nine weeks.

“Last week in both NSW and ACT we had the biggest distribution week on record.”

Bigger than the bush fires

Just 18 months ago, Foodbank was helping Australian communities reeling from the horrific bushfire season get basic supplies.

But even those numbers were nothing compared to the last two weeks of July, Ms Casey said.

Single mothers, international students, casuals who have lost their jobs and cannot access additional COVID payments and people who are isolating themselves are among those who struggle to pay their bills and buy food , she said.

At Addison Road Community Center in Marrickville, demands for food rose 20% week after week during the lockdown.

“Look, this is huge,” said the centre’s executive director, Rosanna Barbero.

“You can’t get an idea of ​​the magnitude of the problem with just the number of baskets,” Ms. Barbero said.

“It’s constant. The need far exceeds our current capabilities.

The center has 300 volunteers who send packages across Sydney and statewide to regional communities struggling with the extended lockdown.

“We are not funded, so we will continue to do so until the money runs out,” Ms. Barbero said.

As Australians struggle, billionaires cash in

For some, the pandemic has been a big source of money.

Australia’s 31 billionaires have seen their fortunes increase by nearly $ 85 billion in the past 18 months, according to Oxfam.

But hundreds of thousands of people living below the poverty line cannot access additional payments when lockdowns occur.

The COVID-19 Disaster Payment for Australians with a job has been extended to casual workers and visa holders who have been employed for less than a year if they normally work more than eight hours a week and have lost their jobs due to the lockdown.

But payments exclude people who were working less than eight hours a week before the lockdowns began, despite lockdowns making it nearly impossible to find paid work.

This means that about 90% of adults currently stranded on Social Security payments are excluded from disaster payments of $ 200 per week, new research from the Australian Council of Social Services revealed this week.

Most Social Assistance Recipients Do Not Receive Disaster Payments

Federal government data shows that nearly nine in ten people stuck on income support payments, such as JobSeeker, were unable to access the COVID-19 disaster payment of $ 200 per week.

ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie said excluding people from payments was undermining the effectiveness of the lockdown.

“The majority are on JobSeeker, at just $ 44 a day, with no hope of finding paid work due to the bottlenecks which, while necessary, increase underemployment,” said Dr. Goldie.

The Poverty Center called on the government to “pay people to stay at home.”

“There is a huge elephant in the room, and that is to say you have millions of people who are dependent on poverty payments who haven’t lost enough jobs or lost any jobs,” spokeswoman Kristin O’Connell said.

“And the cost of basic necessities goes up during the lockdown. The cheapest products are flying off the shelves. People are stuck at home, their bills are going up.

She said the solution was to reinstate the temporary coronavirus supplement, which added an additional $ 550 per fortnight to JobSeeker’s unemployment benefit.

“Bringing everyone on unemployment benefit to the poverty line last year, people were able to comfortably choose to do things that protected their own safety and the safety of the whole community,” Ms. O’Connell.


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