Mid Richmond Neighbourhood Centre (also known as the Consortium of Neighbourhood Centres) has been in the thick of emergency relief work for flood ravaged communities in northern NSW over the past several months. Located in Evans Head and servicing services nearby towns of Coraki, Broadwater and Woodburn, the centre was delivering emergency food parcels and other essential items via boat to evacuation centres and areas of higher ground where locals were congregated during the worst of the flooding.
The Centre’s food relief program is run by regional emergency coordinator Jaime Cooper, who has coordinated food collections with SecondBite via our Community Connect model from six Coles stores along the coast, from Yamba in the south up to Tweed Heads on the Queensland border.
Jaime says the flood relief work has been a huge community effort, with so many volunteers and groups chipping in and doing their bit to provide support.
“In a normal week we would have a handful of volunteers working in our food pantries, serving about 20 to 30 people a day, but the numbers coming through now average around 100 a day in Evans Head, and in the volunteer run Woodburn Hub we’re seeing upwards of 500 people coming in for food and supplies every day.”
“Many of the people accessing our community pantries haven’t previously needed any support before and they often feel ashamed about asking for help. It’s heartbreaking to see proud community members reluctant to seek help, but at the moment there’s no other option. It’s going to take a couple of years to fully recover from this, so our work is really cut out for us.”
A confluence of events since the beginning of 2022 has led to an increase in demand of between 10 and 40% for food relief across the country, with Omicron-induced supply chain disruptions already seeing increased food costs. Adding rising fuel prices and the devastating flood events in south east Queensland and the NSW Northern Rivers region into the mix, and it is easy to understand what has kept Jaime busy for up to 18 hours a day, coordinating food relief and other emergency support services in her community.
SecondBite’s Queensland agency coordinator, Robert Rimmer, has also reported increased demand from charity partners with the floods adding to existing COVID-induced setbacks for those who lost homes, businesses, jobs and/or income over the past two years.
Robert said that many clients are not necessarily presenting as flood impacted at first but are in need of urgent assistance due to flood-related loss of work, lengthy power outages and the need to provide support to family members or friends who have been affected by floods.
“Our charity partners are reporting that those seeking food relief are from a much wider demographic than we usually see. It’s families and couples who were getting by before, but now are really struggling with food prices up by as much as 30% in some cases and not being able to fill their cars with fuel prices going through the roof.”
In addition to the usual fresh food and canned or dried goods that SecondBite provides, there has been requests for bottled water, cleaning products and personal care items.
SecondBite will ramp up its support of the Mid Richmond Neighbourhood Centre with bulk deliveries over the next 12 months, one of several primary recipients of emergency relief government-funded support. The 120,000 plus kg of food already supplied to the centre over the past five years will increase significantly as towns and businesses work through an extended recovery and rebuilding period.
To support SecondBite’s work please purchase a $2 donation card at any Coles store during our winter appeal (June 22 til July 5) or donate via our website at secondbite.org/donate