Charity inundated as hundreds in regional towns seek help to find food

Grace Dudley
Updated July 11 2024 - 1:14pm, first published 12:59pm

A regional food charity has experienced a significant rise in demand as more people seek help to access food.

Food Care president Lee Cook said the increased cost of essential goods in regional areas was contributing to the demand for its services.

Lee Cook at Food Care in Orange NSW. Picture by Jude Keogh
Lee Cook at Food Care in Orange NSW. Picture by Jude Keogh

"There's certainly little doubt in my mind that increasing grocery prices is part of the reason people are coming to see us," Mr Cook said.

"Electricity and gas has gone up and petrol has been high for months now.

"So, all those things mean that people have less money overall and they're going to come to a place like Food Care looking for help."

Food Care, which offers free or low-cost food to those in need in Orange in NSW has helped 800 people each month in 2024, compared to 600 people per month in 2023.

Higher costs in the regions 

This comes as the Productivity Commission's latest report released on July 10 found regional Australians face considerably higher prices for everyday items than those living in major cities.

Lee Cook stacking shelves at Food Care in Orange. Picture by Jude Keogh
Lee Cook stacking shelves at Food Care in Orange. Picture by Jude Keogh

It found there's "consistent evidence" that increased cost of everyday goods like groceries, energy and fuel may further "exacerbate inequality" in regional areas.

Mr Cook has noticed at the Food Care shop that more people are going without food in order to afford other basic goods.

That included a young man from Orange who sought help just once because he had some pricey bills to pay and cutting his food budget that week was his only option, he said.

"I never saw him there again after that, so sometimes people just have situations come up in their lives," Mr Cook said.

Former Homelessness NSW CEO Trina Jones has been appointed as the state’s first rent commissioner to advise the government on addressing the growing rental crisis.

"A lot of people, who are at Food Care actually have cars, they tend to drive so they presumably put enough money aside to manage that. [But] they haven't got enough money to manage everything else," he said.

Housing one of many expenses 

The Productivity Commission found that a focus on housing may downplay other cost of living pressures on regional Australians.

"Other costs, besides housing, impact people's economic security and their ability to meet basic needs."

"This is likely to understate the difficulties experienced by those living in remote Australia," the report stated.

Grace Dudley

Grace Dudley

Journalist for the Central Western Daily in Orange, NSW.

Grace joined the Central Western Daily in February 2024. Got a story to share? Reach out at grace.dudley@austcommunitymedia.com.au