Empty plates at Christmas

December 13, 2017

More people than ever will be seeking help for hunger this Christmas, according to Goldfields Ministries Foodshare chief executive Robert Peachey.

WHEN planning this year’s Christmas dinner, most of us are concerned how we’ll stuff all the food onto our plates — not whether we’ll have food at all.

But for many families and individuals in Heathcote, this is a reality.

And according to Goldfields Ministries Foodshare chief executive Robert Peachey, more people than ever before will be seeking help for hunger this Christmas.

‘‘We’re currently helping 300 people a week and that’s going up. I’d say we’re reaching out to about 10 per cent of Heathcote’s population,’’ he said.

Our town’s situation echoes results published recently in the annual Foodbank Hunger Report.

The report revealed 15 per cent (3.6 million) of Australians have experienced uncertainty around where their next meal is coming from in the last 12 months.

Rob said many locals were falling into food insecurity simply due to the rising cost of life’s basics, like rent and power bills.

He added it didn’t take much to tip people into a situation where food became a luxury, not a necessity, including an unexpected bill, a sudden illness, a relationship breakdown, or a lack of support networks.

‘‘The problem is the cost of living is going up while wages stay static,’’ he said.

‘‘So it’s not just the unemployed and homeless who are experiencing food insecurity. Many are the ‘working poor’ — they are employed but living pay cheque to pay cheque.’’

Rob said Goldfields Ministries was currently helping a minimum of 70 local families put food on the table each week. But the majority of people approaching the not-for-profit were single elderly individuals.

‘‘The elderly can be very hidden and isolated,’’ he said.

‘‘Currently, 20 per cent of Heathcote’s population is over 65. And in nine years that percentage is forecast to rise to 52 per cent — more than half of our population.’’

While Rob said Foodshare was a major component of the not-for-profit, he added it wasn’t its focus.

‘‘We are far bigger than just food. In addition to providing meals for people, we run a cafe where locals can come and connect with others,’’ he said.

‘‘We aim to nourish people socially. Many elderly people can feel very isolated and that there’s no reason for them to stick around — but we give them a reason to stay.

‘‘We’ve stopped two or three suicides this year just from what we do.’’

The Goldfields Ministries Foodshare will be holding a community barbecue on Christmas Day from 10am, behind the shire offices.

While donations of money and food are welcome, Rob said the greatest donation would be for locals to come along on the day.

‘‘Just come for a couple hours and have a chat. Time’s the commodity we don’t have any more, but it makes a big difference.’’

If you would like to get involved or make a donation, contact Rob on 0438 997 649.

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