Discount grocery store helps feed hundreds of low-income families every week

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Food insecurity is a major, yet hidden, problem in Australia with more than 2 million people seeking food relief every year. One discount food store is helping provide relief and restore dignity to some of the most needy.

For 58-year-old Faith Swann, putting food on the table for her eight grandchildren can be a struggle.

She is currently unemployed and relies on government support to look after her family.

Costs add up - a problem her family appreciates.

"For us, there are a lot of bills to pay in our house,” said granddaughter, 15-year-old Gwen.

“We're a big family and we love to eat. Food is our life. When we need food, we just have a little amount and we just divide from there."

Faith Swann and granddaughter Gwen shop at The Staples Bag regularly.
Faith Swann and granddaughter Gwen shop at The Staples Bag regularly.
SBS

She says going back to school is going to be particularly tough. 

"For now we don't have anything to buy our school books. We still use our old school books.”

With the rising cost of living, it can be difficult to make ends meet. 

According to the latest figures by the nation's largest food relief organisation, Foodbank, one in six Australians have called on food relief at least once over the past year. 

More concerning, 28 per cent of those are experiencing this on a regular basis.

Terry Wilson, Manager of Employment at Settlement Services International, says there is a lack of awareness about food insecurity despite the severity of the problem.

"It's a significant issue that I don't think has been tackled very well,” Mr Wilson said.

“There are people who are struggling to make ends meet and it just seems ironic that in a country like Australia where we are so blessed with so much land and so much fertile country that we're not able to get the food to people in need."

Feeding Sydney's west

The Staples Bag, a not-for-profit store in Campsie in Sydney's west, is helping provide some relief.

It supports around 300 families every week.

Last year it distributed 500 tonnes of food to the community.

"We've got people from all walks of life,” said Mr Wilson who helped facilitate the establishment of The Staples Bag initiative.

“We're constantly looking to source a wide range of goods because of the multicultural needs of our community. Everything we stock is halal."

The Staples Bag relies on wholesalers to donate food items at heavily discounted prices for its customers.

A bag of fresh fruit, vegetables and meat, that feeds a family of four for over a week would cost around $100 at a local supermarket. But at The Staples Bag it's only $30.

The store is more than just about feeding the needy, it also helps restore dignity.

"The first time they come they can't believe how many groceries they can get,” Mr Wilson said.

“We hear some stories about what a significant impact it's going to make on their lives and how they are going to be able to afford new school shoes."

It has been over a year since the Staples Bag first opened its doors.

The Staples Bag is located in Campsie in Sydney's south-west
The Staples Bag is located in Campsie in Sydney's south-west.
SBS

There are plans to expand to western NSW where food insecurity is most prevalent and to launch a home delivery service to improve accessibility for customers. 

For the Swann family, The Staples Bag is more than just your average green grocer.

"We thought it was like a miracle. If this wasn't here, I don't know what would happen to us."

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