The Foundation’s long history with food relief

This morning I was making toast for brekky and got distracted wondering what toppings to artfully arrange on top – was it an avo day or was I more in the mood for plain ol’ Vegemite? My indecision regarding toppings caused my toast to burn unsalvageable.

Annoyed, but not deterred I threw the charred bread in the bin and attempted again.

Now, let’s reflect on that little anecdote.

How lucky am I?

The fact that I not only had a nutritious breakfast (literally) at my disposal, but I also had a choice between healthy options and enough food that I didn’t have to worry when I burnt my breaky on account of my own distracted-ness. Plus, for me, lockdown has given me the ability to spend time making breakfast – which is something people who work shifts or are doing remote learning don’t really have the luxury of.

For those of us that are in a similar boat to me, it can be tricky to envisage how food insecurity feels to those experiencing it and how it can impact every aspect of your life.

But, sadly this is something that more and more people are experiencing across our region. With the pandemic and lockdowns causing a loss in work hours, government assistance not being available to everyone within our community, and supply chain issues, and panic buying leading to a reduction in the food available to relief organisations, there was a massive effect on our food relief sector.

Food is not just food – it’s sustenance, it’s comfort, it’s survival, it’s culture, and it is connection. Food is hope.

And that’s why it’s always been a big part of the work the Foundation has invested in.


Well, in the words of the Foundation CEO, Bill Mithen “Having access to an adequate supply of nutritious food is a human right. It doesn’t matter where you are. As a developed, prosperous city, we should all be working to change the food insecurity in our region.”

But, how did the Foundation get started in creating food security across the Geelong and wider region?

Let’s have a little history lesson!


The humble beginnings

As a community organisation, we’ve been invested in the wellbeing of the community since our inception in 1954. And sadly, food insecurity is an ever-present issue.

“Supporting organisations that are at the forefront of emergency relief is core to the Foundation’s mission and food relief has always been a big part of emergency relief,” says Bill. 

This ever-present issue was exacerbated with the Pyramid Building Society collapse in 1990 decimating savings across Geelong and leaving many struggling with debt and financial loss.


The Direct Assistance Voucher Program

In response to this, the Foundation developed the Direct Assistance Voucher Program.

This program, still running today, providing access to basic necessities (like food, material aid, and support for prescriptions) to people in need across the region.

Recently, the Foundation just released an additional $20,000 in Direct Assistance Vouchers to seven community organisations across the region. So, in total, over the past six months, the Foundation has funded 3125 food vouchers (totalling $62,500), 1020 material aid vouchers (totalling $51,000), and 325 pharmacy vouchers (totalling $2,177).

These vouchers give people in our community access to essentials, like food from the Geelong Food Relief Centre, prescription medications from local partner pharmacies, and furniture from Encompass Homestart. Basically, the stuff we all need, but sometimes take for granted.


Geelong Food Assistance Network

The Foundation was also instrumental in the creation of the Geelong Food Assistance Network.


The Foundation saw a need to consolidate and coordinate food relief across the wider Geelong region and create an approach that suited the needs of the whole community. This network is crucial in creating understanding and meeting the needs of our community regarding food relief.


Feed Geelong

Most recently, the Foundation began Feed Geelong in 2012 with the mission of addressing the food insecurity crisis in Geelong.

The Feed Geelong vision is to create the most effective Regional Food Assistance System in Australia.

This ‘safety net’ ensures that when people need food assistance, there is a myriad of ways for people to access that assistance.

For many people, food insecurity is a complex issue. The need that comes with food insecurity is varied and Feed Geelong can provide that varied solution, supporting different organisations throughout the region to tackle this problem holistically.

Feed Geelong raises valuable funds to support food relief programs funded by the Foundation, ensuring support is available in many forms across our entire region and a Where You Can Eat directory ensuring that the most up-to-date information is available for those who need it.


Food is not just food

Like we said, food is hope. It is a fresh start, a helping hand, a pat on the back, and a reassuring nod that your community is there to support you.

Because no one should be worried about where or when or how they will get their next meal – even if they burn their toast!


Click here to donate to help your community fight food insecurity.