Breakfast cereal, rice and pulses don't sound like items that should appear on a gift wish list, but they are at the top of some particularly important lists.
According to Foodbank’s 2018 Hunger Report, in the last year alone, more than 4 million Australians experienced food insecurity - that's 18 percent of the population and a 10 percent increase in demand over the last 12 months. There’s no doubt charities feel the need to provide relief all year round, but the holiday period is particularly challenging.
The Exodus Foundation
One of the Sydney charities preparing for the festive season at the frontline of the city’s poor and homeless population is The Exodus Foundation. As well as providing Christmas lunch to thousands of people, Exodus workers and volunteers workers prepare hampers for poor and in-need Sydneysiders.
Founder Reverend Bill Crews explains: “Giving to The Exodus Foundation helps ensure those in greatest need don’t miss out at Christmas.”
The Exodus Foundation’s most wanted foods for food parcels
• Christmas puddings.
• Christmas mince pies.
• UHT Custard (1 litre).
• Shortbread (200g packets).
• Potato chips (large packets).
• Canned baked beans, spaghetti, soups, fruit, tuna/salmon and ham.
• Lollies (packets).
Most wanted foods and items for Christmas lunch
• Christmas puddings
• Christmas mince pies
• UHT Custard (1 litre)
• Christmas bon-bons
• Christmas serviettes
• Bottled water (600ml)
Ensure all tinned items have a ring-pull, and don’t wrap donations; simply leave them in bags provided by the foundation or in similar green supermarket bags. Take food to The Exodus Foundation HQ at 180 Liverpool Road, Ashfield.
“We also accept supermarket gift cards, which will be used to buy additional fresh food for those in greatest need,” adds Reverend Crews.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
Asylum seekers, too, can struggle over the holidays. Karen Williams, Food & Goods Coordinator of the Melbourne-based Asylum Seeker Resource Centre explains: “There’s a huge lag in donations around Christmas. Unfortunately, for people seeking asylum, their needs do not take a break over Christmas. So we’ve started a Festive Food Drive to encourage the community to help us support people seeking asylum. It’s called The Twelve Foods of Christmas.” The foods include culturally relevant items such as basmati rice, honey, tahini and tomato paste. Watch the video below to find out more about the ASRC’s Festive Food Drive.
ASRC encourages people to organise their own food drive – find details here or take donations to the ASRC Footscray Centre, 218 Nicholson St, Footscray between 10am-5pm, Monday to Friday and 8pm on Wednesdays. Williams adds, “A Coles online order is a really convenient way to support us, too. Order a trolley full of Christmas goodies and put us [ASRC] down as the delivery address. It’s a great way to show compassion in action.”
The Salvation Army operates all over the country by distributing hampers to families in need – but they need help to fill them! Hosting your own food drive is a practical way to ensure food makes it to those who need it most. It could be stationed at your child’s school, your place of work or register your home as the drop-off point. Head here to find out more.
So what do the Salvos need? Non-perishable food with long expiry dates. Simple as that.
The organisation has a tip for those with philanthropic intentions: “Think Christmas: people will be receiving these packages as gifts. Buy brand-name products where possible, and maybe include special items to help people celebrate on Christmas Day. Consider providing choices that suit families with young children, people with allergies, the elderly or newcomers to Australia,” a spokesperson tells SBS Food. And if you are donating toys and gifts, what they need most are presents for teenagers.
Australia’s largest food saving organisation, Foodbank, provides food relief to 710,000 people every month. "Only 36% of charities report they are currently meeting the full needs of people they assist.," Foodbank’s CEO Brianna Casey, tells SBS Food. “Foodbank relies on the generous donations of food and funds to help those vulnerable Aussies put food on their table this Christmas. We ask you to give generously and help make Christmas a special time."
Foodbank’s top 10 most wanted items
• Breakfast cereal
• Pasta, noodles, rice, couscous
• Tea and coffee
• Canned fruit, vegetables and pulses
• Long-life milk
• Baked beans and tinned spaghetti
• Personal hygiene products (especially shampoo/conditioner, toothpaste and toilet paper)
• Shelf-stable meals (food that can be stored at room temperature in a sealed container)
• Spreads (eg. Vegemite and honey)
• Cooking and baking supplies
One of the charities that Foodbank helps out is Mission Australia. The charity has been running Perth's Christmas Lunch in the Park for 43 years. Around 1,200 of Perth's most marginalised will come together to share a meal on what can be the loneliest day of the year.
“Although Christmas is a time of celebration for many, for those who have become marginalised from mainstream society, it can often only serve to highlight what they don’t have,” says State Director Mission Australia WA, Jo Sadler.
The charity is seeking cash donations in order to buy items in addition to the support Foodbank provides.
Shout someone Christmas lunch
$25 will buy Christmas lunch for someone who may otherwise have gone without
$50 a personal care pack full of essential items for someone experiencing homelessness
$100 will feed a family of four
$250 will provide lunch, presents for kids and care packs for a family of four.
Donations can be made at Christmas Lunch in the Park.
Add a farmer to your list too
Over Christmas, let's not forget the people who bring us the food in the first place. Many Australian farmers are doing it tough this year. Send your support through foundations like Aussie Farmers Foundation, Buy a Bale, Aussie Helpers or Rural Aid. Donating to any of the food drives above will also help farmers enjoy the festive season.