Responding to Victoria’s bushfire crisis

On December 31 2019, Foodbank Victoria was activated as the State Government’s official emergency food and water relief organisation under the Emergency Relief and Recovery Plan. With the support and generosity of our friends, partners and the wider community, we responded – distributing emergency food, water and supplies to fire-affected communities in East Gippsland. Here is a timeline of our response.

The first emergency relief consisting of 256 food hampers, water and snacks were sent to Bairnsdale Racecourse Recovery Centre by truck.

650 food hampers, snacks and 10 pallets of water were delivered via rig tender ‘Far Senator’ to Mallacoota as all roads were cut.

Following a social media post detailing our first response, we received an influx of generous offers from the community who were desperate to help. For the first time in history, we opened our doors to accept donations from the general public. Over 200 cars showed up at our warehouse to donate food, water and supplies.

Our team of 20 staff and volunteers quickly grew to 100 people as we welcomed more than 900 drive-through donations. Our volunteers packed 1,050 hampers of essential items including groceries, toiletries and ‘grab n go’ meals. Six Army trucks delivered 48 pallets of water and 1,440 hampers to East Sale for road and air distribution into remote communities.

Today marked our third-day accepting donations from the general public, who flocked to our warehouse in the thousands eager to help those in need. More than 1,300 cars, trucks, trailers, horse floats and wheelbarrows lined up at our doors to donate much-needed food and supplies, while 130 volunteers continued to greet visitors, sort donations and pack hampers.

More than 550 vehicles stopped by our warehouse – luckily we’d enlisted the help of traffic management. 45 staff and 90 volunteers were all hands on deck, continuing to sort and pack emergency hampers. The community response was incredible.

Two truckloads of supplies including 960 hampers and six pallets of water made their way to Bairnsdale Airport to be airlifted into isolated regions with the help of the Australian Army. US superstar Lizzo made a special visit, helping to pack hampers and thank our volunteers for their hard work. A further 128 vehicles stopped by our warehouse with more food, water and essential items.

Over the next three days, more than 460 vehicles visited our warehouse to drop off donations, before our warehouse would close to the general public on Sunday 12 January, 5pm. As our team continued to sort and pack hampers, we called upon the community to support our efforts financially, with every $1 donation allowing us to provide close to $7 worth of food to those impacted by the bushfires.

Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Anthony Albanese, kindly visited our warehouse to thank our volunteers and learn more about our Victorian operations.

We joined Cold Chisel at Mount Duneeed Estate for their 2020 Blood Moon Tour. The legendary rockers helped to raise funds for Foodbank and we were there in our purple aprons collecting donations for our disaster relief work. In the warehouse, our volunteers packed the 4,500th hamper since our first day of opening to the public.

More than 3,000 kilograms of mixed groceries were shipped to the Adventist Development Relief Agency in Bairnsdale and a further 565 kilograms of food relief was delivered to Bairnsdale Neighbourhood House. Our volunteers – with a little help from Gordon Ramsay – continued to pack and sort donated goods.

Her Excellency the Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria, and Mr Anthony Howard AM QC spent time meeting staff and volunteers and thanking them for their efforts during our bushfire food relief response.

20 more pallets of food went by truck to Bairnsdale, with eight of these pallets making their way to Mallacoota. In the warehouse, emergency relief hamper packing continued.

To this date, more than 3,300 mixed grocery hampers, 138 pallets of water, three pallets of muesli bars and four pallets of fruit cups have been delivered to disaster recovery centres and communities in East Gippsland and beyond, with thousands more packed and ready for distribution.

The community response has been incredible and our volunteers are working hard to sort through donations and pack these into hampers. But there is still a long road to recovery. That’s why we’re asking for financial support to keep food and supplies flowing. A $1 donation allows us to provide 2 meals.

There is still a long road to recovery as affected communities begin to heal, recover and rebuild – and we will be there with them, every step of the way. Read some inspiring and heart-warming tales of recovery from the communities of East Gippsland.