FAQs

Where can I get help?

While our primary focus is to provide food to people in need, we do not generally provide food directly to individuals. Instead we work in cooperation with our charity partners that serve individuals and families.

If you require emergency food relief, please visit the Ask Izzy website, which will help to connect you with local food relief services, or click here to visit the Foodbank in your state/territory, where you will find links to locally-relevant services.

If you are located in Western Australia please visit https://erconnect.org.au/food/.

What can I do to help?

We need your help now. No child should have to go to school hungry, no parent should have to skip meals to feed their family and no Australian should have to suffer the stress and health impacts of not having the means to put food on the table.

Why not help us end hunger in Australia.

Click here to donate.

You can also support Foodbank by volunteering.

You can also contact your local MP/Senator to ask what they are doing to help Foodbank, and whether they support the development of a long-term, whole of government Food Security Strategy.

Is hunger really a problem in Australia?

The Foodbank Hunger Report 2018 revealed that 4 million Australians have experienced food insecurity at some point in the last 12 months. This means that for 18% of Australia’s population, there has been at least one time in the last year when they didn’t have enough food for themselves or their family and could not afford to buy more food. It’s hard to believe this is happening in the ‘lucky country’, where we produce enough food for 60 million people.

Food insecurity is a predicament largely hidden by stigma and shame, but the reality is we’re all likely to know someone who is affected.  It’s not just people on the street, but people in your street. Our research found that almost half (48%) of food insecure Australians are employed in some way, whether it be full-time, part-time, or casually, and food insecurity is affecting city and country alike.

While the frontline charity agencies we serve provide food assistance to a diverse range of groups, the most common group they assist are individuals and families living on a low income (81%).

As Australians, we subscribe to the belief of a fair go for all and, at Foodbank, we think that should include being free from hunger. But with their current resources, charities are having to turn away 7% of individuals seeking food relief each month, so we are far from achieving this fair go for all.

Click here to find out more about hunger in Australia.

Click here to find out more about hunger among children in Australia.

What is food insecurity (and why don’t you just say ‘hungry’)?

Food insecurity is “a situation that exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life” (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations). This is different to hunger, which is a sensation many of us experience often, but are able to address by simply opening a cupboard or a fridge. Food insecure people do not have this luxury and cannot regularly and routinely put a meal on the table for themselves or their family.

Who experiences food insecurity in Australia?

The face of hunger is diverse – those affected are men and women, children and the elderly. They are single and in families, students, employed, unemployed and retired. Also at risk are people with disabilities, refugees and those of Aboriginal and Islander descent. The suffering is often hidden, but the reality is we’re all likely to know someone going without.

What causes food insecurity?

Many of us face the daily pressures of rising amenity costs, including rent, mortgage repayments and power bills. For some people, this pressure can result in tough choices such as, ‘Do I pay that bill or buy food?’.

Energy prices have increased significantly in recent years and are expected to continue growing in the future. Unexpected expenses or large bills are the main cause of food insecurity for Australians, with 56% citing this as a reason they are unable to purchase more food when they run out. In these situations, people are forced to choose between food and other everyday necessities.

Housing affordability is another area that causes financial stress for many Australians. Over the past five years, earnings have not kept pace with growth in rental prices. The proportion of households that pay 30% or more of their income in rent has grown from 10.4% to 11.5% over this period. Almost two in five (38%) of those who have experienced food insecurity in the last 12 months have been unable to buy food because of their rent or mortgage payments.

Food itself can also be expensive. More than a third (35%) of food insecure Australians say they are unable to buy food because it is too expensive.

What is it like to be food insecure?

To get through times of food insecurity, people often go without. When individuals are faced with food insecurity, meal-skipping is commonplace. Many Australians (54%) experiencing food insecurity have skipped a meal, and 26% have gone for an entire day without eating.

For parents, meal-skipping can mean the difference between their children having something to eat or going hungry. Almost half (46%) of parents have skipped a meal so that their children can eat in instances where they have been unable to afford food. Children can also miss out on vital nutrition and 17% of parents report their children go without fresh fruit or vegetables in times of food insecurity.

What are the impacts of being food insecure?

Lack of food can significantly impact quality of life. Not having enough to eat can severely impact everyday functioning and wellbeing. Food insecure Australians most commonly report lethargy or tiredness (52%), a decline in mental health (44%) and a loss of confidence (38%) because of lack of food.

Australians struggling with food insecurity say they feel stressed (57%), depressed (52%) and sad (47%) during times when they are unable to buy enough food.

Not having enough food can also influence a person’s ability to create and maintain social connections. More than a third (37%) of food insecure Australians report that in times where they have run out of food and are not able to afford more, they have been unable to invite friends or family over.

What is Foodbank?

Foodbank is Australia’s largest food relief organisation, operating on a scale that makes it crucial to the work of the front line charities that are feeding vulnerable Australians. Foodbank provides 77 million meals a year (210,000 meals a day) to more than 2,600 charities around the country, accounting for 79% of all food received by charities from food rescue organisations.

Foodbank is also the largest supporter of school breakfast programs in Australia, providing food for 2,000 schools nationally (both directly and via programs run by other organisations). Foodbank provides regular breakfasts to more than 132,000 students at schools around the country and on top of this, more than 200,000 children seek food relief from our charities every month.

As the only Australian food relief organisation to be an accredited member of the Global Foodbanking Network (GFN), Foodbank Australia goes through a rigorous re-certification process every two years whereby our operations, legislative compliance, programs and reporting processes are assessed by the GFN. Our most recent re-certification in February 2019 confirmed that Foodbank Australia is exceeding the requirements of membership and ‘exceeding global best practice’ in many ways.

Foodbank is registered with the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC) and endorsed as a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR).  Our DGR status allows us to receive tax deductible contributions, which is vitally important given the modest funding we receive from Government to provide our essential services of public benefit right across the country. Click here to find out more about how we work.

How does Foodbank source its food and groceries?

Foodbank works right across the Australian food and grocery supply chain from farmers, wholesalers, and manufacturers through to the retailers to source food and groceries.  Approximately 37 million kilograms of the 42.8 million kilograms of food and groceries sourced and distributed by Foodbank last year was sourced through ‘food rescue’.  The remaining 5.8 million kilograms was sourced through proactive manufacturing and purchasing of product by Foodbank, as well as product donations.  In addition to food rescue, food and grocery companies and retailers make food/grocery donations to Foodbank as part of their commitment to corporate social responsibility. Many companies choose to make regular donations by increasing their production run or drawing straight from inventory in order to ensure that their product is consistently available to charities. They may also make special one-off donations at the time of natural disasters.

Collaborative Supply Program

Foodbank is the only charity in Australia that collaborates with suppliers, manufacturers, and transporters in an innovative program to ensure consistent supplies of essential food items are available in its warehouses every day. The Collaborative Supply Program (click here to view a short video explaining the program) sees food manufacturers produce sought-after products using spare production capacity. Suppliers donate or subsidise the ingredients, packaging and delivery of the products to spread the commitment and enhance the sustainability of the program. Through this program, we are able to provide consistent supplies of breakfast cereals, fresh and long life milk, pasta and pasta sauce, canned fruit, baked beans and sausages. The program generates an average of 2 million kilograms of food each year, with every dollar invested in the program delivering $5 worth of food – clearly a sound investment.

The GFN has commended Foodbank Australia on its “world-leading” Collaborative Supply Program, which is recognised as demonstrating global best practice in sourcing food. Foodbank is now regularly called upon by other GFN members to guide them on the development of similar programs in their countries, given the unrivalled success of the program, which is regularly assessed not only in terms of volumes of food produced, but also the investment gearing.

Primary Produce Programs

Despite rural and regional Australians being more likely to be food insecure than their metro counterparts, farming communities work closely with Foodbank to donate grain, rice, milk, meat, eggs and fresh produce. Foodbank sources these essential products through relationships right along the supply chain, partnering with farmers, produce market associations, and peak bodies from paddock to plate. This farm fresh produce is collected by Foodbank and made available directly to our charity network to be provided to food recipients, used in Foodbank production kitchens, or used as manufacturing ingredients for the Collaborative Supply Program. For example, donated meat trim can be used in our protein program and become sausages.

What are Foodbank School Breakfast Programs?

Foodbanks across the country assist more than 2,000 schools around Australia through the direct and indirect delivery of School Breakfast Programs. Many of the nutritious products used in these School Breakfast Programs are sourced via the Key Staples Program. Given the geographic spread and range of socio-economic circumstances, Foodbank prides itself in its ability to be flexibly and dynamic in terms of delivery and distribution models, to ensure the best possible outcomes for children at these schools.  Some Foodbanks also deliver nutrition education programs for adults and children alike to encourage improved nutrition literacy in the community.

A number of universities have recently completed (or are in the process of completing) independent, peer-reviewed assessments of the School Breakfast Programs in WA, SA and Victoria.  For example, the Victoria Institute (Victoria University) has recently published an interim report on the Evaluation of the School Breakfast Clubs Program in Victoria, with compelling findings on the impact of the program on children’s concentration levels, engagement in class activities and academic outcomes.

What role does Foodbank play in responding to natural disasters and other emergencies?

Foodbank also plays a key role in times of community emergencies and natural disasters. Every State/Territory Foodbank is involved in disaster relief, providing essential supplies to support the work of emergency services and first responders as well as ongoing assistance to affected communities during the months and years it takes to recover.  As a recent example, Foodbank NSW & ACT distributed 10,000 drought hampers to those in need.

What is Foodbank’s role in addressing food waste?

Foodbank’s food and grocery rescue operations play a key role in addressing Australia’s $20 billion food waste problem, redirecting and/or repurposing approximately 37 million kilograms of food and groceries that may otherwise end up in landfill, saving more than 81 million kilograms of CO2 emissions every year. Foodbank worked closely with the Federal Department of the Environment and Energy, our sector peers and our supply chain colleagues in the development of Australia’s first ever National Food Waste Strategy. The Australian Government has committed to halving food waste by 2030 (consistent with Target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals).

Foodbank is also proud to be an inaugural partner in Australia’s first ever Cooperative Research Centre dedicated to fighting food waste.  After a highly competitive bidding process more than two years in the making, in early 2018, the Australian Government confirmed a $30m grant towards the creation of a new Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) on Food Waste.  The 10yr, $133m Fight Food Waste CRC will be headquartered in Adelaide, and will support industry-led collaborations between researchers, industry and the community to address the issue of food waste and help the Government fulfil its National Food Waste Strategy commitment to halve food waste in Australia.

How does Foodbank contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

Foodbank’s activities across Australian play a key role in delivering on at least five of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which are aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all.  Foodbank’s operations are strongly aligned to the following five goals, SDG 2 Zero Hunger, SDG 1 No Poverty, SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities, SDG12 Responsible Consumption & Production, SDG 17 Partnerships for the Goals.

What is the government doing?

All levels of government have a role to play in addressing the root causes of food insecurity and working with organisations like Foodbank to ensure food relief is available while these causes are being addressed.

The Federal Government has an opportunity to deliver significant positive change by developing a long-term, whole of government strategy to coordinate the efforts of government and all key stakeholder in addressing the current food security crisis. We believe a national food security strategy is crucial to ensuring vulnerable Australians have access to essential support when it is needed most. This has been a key 2019 Federal Election focus for Foodbank, as outlined in election advocacy documents, which you can view here.

Foodbank has also argued that Federal Government investment in the food relief sector is too low given the scale of the problem at hand. As an example, Foodbank Australia currently receives $750 000 per annum from the Federal Government through the Department of Social Services to be used exclusively for our Key Staples Program. This is a relatively minor financial investment given we’re talking about an issue affecting 15% of the population, and total revenue for 2018/19 is reported in the Federal Budget as $486.1 billion.

Foodbank’s most recent Pre-Budget Submission outlined what we believe is the minimum that is required from the Federal Government over the next 12 months and beyond if we are to come close to meeting demand for food relief.

We would love you to ask your local Member of Parliament or State/Territory Senator what they are doing to help Foodbank and whether they support the development of a long-term, bi-partisan food security strategy.

What is the food industry doing?

Foodbank works with the entire Australian food and grocery industry from farmers, wholesalers, and manufacturers to retailers to source food and groceries.  Approximately 37 million kilograms of the 42.8 million kilograms of food and groceries sourced and distributed by Foodbank last year was sourced through ‘food rescue’.  The remaining 5.8 million kilograms was sourced through proactive manufacturing and purchase of product by Foodbank, as well as product donations.  In addition to food rescue, food and grocery companies and retailers  make food/grocery donations to Foodbank as part of their commitment to corporate social responsibility. Many companies choose to make regular donations by increasing their production run or drawing straight from inventory in order to ensure that their product is consistently available to charities. They may also make special one-off donations at the time of natural disasters.

In addition, in an innovative and world-leading foodbanking program, Foodbank also collaborates with suppliers, manufacturers and transporters to proactively manufacture key staple foods to ensure that these are available year round. You can watch a 4-minute video about this impressive program here.

Is there a cost to access food from Foodbank?

To ensure we get the most food to the most people in the most efficient and effective way, Foodbank charges ‘handling fees’ for some items to help offset some of our operational costs. In a country as big as ours some of our biggest costs are transport and logistics; getting food from where it is to where it needs to go.

Running Foodbank’s operations across the country to enable us to reach 710,000 Australians per month requires ongoing funding. We have many generous partners who support us, however the majority of our donations are food and grocery items. Handling fees vary across the Foodbank network.

Handling fees also allow us to source and provide a wider range of products to the end recipients, giving them dignity of choice and also, in the majority of instances, product that has good shelf life, rather than just short life product.

Foodbank varies the rate of handling fees on individual products to encourage healthier choices (e.g. in the vast majority of instances fruit and vegetables do not have handling fees). Also, the rate of handling fees on specific products is adjusted to manage inventory (i.e. lower/no fees on particularly large or short coded donations that need to be moved quickly).