Emergency food hub to battle Geelong hunger crisis
A NEW emergency food hub at North Geelong has opened to assist people affected by food insecurity in the Geelong region.
The new hub forms part of the expanded Geelong Food Relief Centre and was backed by $1 million from the City of Greater Geelong.
The Geelong Food Relief Centre was established in 1990 by the Give Where You Live Foundation and supports more than 36,000 adults and children every year.
According to council, around 53,000 Geelong residents needed food assistance over a 12-month period, which is equivalent to around 2.48 million meals per year.
With expected population growth in the region and the impacts of COVID-19, they anticipate the system will need to provide more than 3.25 million meals by 2031.
Give Where You Live Foundation CEO Bill Mithen said it was a great initiative as the need in the region was high.
“Pre-COVID our Food for Thought report showed 2000 meals a day were given out by the sector,” he said.
Mr Mithen said the number only increased with COVID and has not gone down.
“Food services have been exhausted, overwhelmed and working on adrenaline for the past 12 months,” he said.
“The gap is getting wider and we need to work harder at doing something about it.
“The council has shown great leadership and driven an agenda that is good for the community.”
Mayor Stephanie Asher said the centre was the result of three years of planning and works.
“Council is proud to have worked closely with the community to create a sustainable model that will co-ordinate food relief resources across the region,” Cr Asher said.
“This model is not only a first for Geelong, but it provides a blueprint for other cities who are keen to assist grassroots groups to help their own residents struggling with food insecurity.”
The new North Geelong hub is larger than the previous facility and was built to broaden food distribution capabilities and tackle the rising demand.
The new development includes commercial kitchen facilities, cool store and freezer facilities, office and meeting rooms, and a dry store ‘mini mart’ area.
Council has also allocated $700,000 over five years to help with the centre’s operating costs.
Cr Sarah Mansfield said there are too many community members struggling to put food on the table.
“Food insecurity is a significant problem in Greater Geelong, so this industry-first regional food hub is a massive achievement in tackling this issue head-on,” she said.
“The hub brings together so many organisations and allows them to best cater to the growing demand for food relief in our community.”
The Victorian Government provided $368,750 for the centre to expand its services and a further $300,000 to help fit out the food distribution hub.
Geelong is one of five centres across the state that the government has supported to run a regional food hub.