GROWING numbers of “middle class” Mornington Peninsula families are lining up for food support and help paying bills.
Support services across the peninsula say a perfect storm of high rents, rising interest rates and burgeoning household bills is forcing a new wave of individuals and families to seek help.
Mornington community support centre is hoping its winter appeal will raise $50,000 by the end of June to help deal with the crisis. CEO Ben Smith said there was unprecedented demand for support services, with all agencies and services reporting being stretched to the limit.
“We are experiencing at least 20 per cent more demand than last year, more need for material assistance and more need for food, which is often the last thing people spend money on,” he said. “This isn’t just happening to homeless people or struggling pensioners, it’s happening across the board and to people who have never before had to ask for help.”
Smith said as well as families needing support, services were seeing more elderly people aged 80 and over. “Our recent community lunch had around 100 people coming for a meal – many of them who had never asked for anything before,” he said. “There were people lined up an hour before we opened, they didn’t want to miss out.”
Western Port, Frankston and Rosebud community support centres were experiencing similar levels of demand, he said. Foodbank, Australia’s largest food charity, is reporting an increase of around 27 per cent in the amount of food distributed across the state.
The charity, which provides food and groceries to 2950 frontline charities, is hoping to get approval for a pop-up food relief outlet at the site of Dromana Drive-in. Drive-in owner Paul Whitaker said Foodbank was keen to get the service happening due to the demand for food relief on the peninsula but had to get permission from VicRoads. “If VicRoads doesn’t block the proposal because of perceived traffic problems, this would be a great service for the community,” he said. “There is such a need out there. ” Whitaker said Foodbank had to work through some of the red tape involved, but he hoped the project would get the go-ahead before the end of winter.
While community support centres across the peninsula receive support from charities such as Foodbank, Oz Harvest and Second, as well as direct donations and food from local producers, they also rely on cash donations and grants to purchase food. Smith said donations, along with volunteers, were the backbone of relief support services, and urged businesses and individuals to think about their capacity to help. “We have an amazing group of volunteers are businesses who support us, but there is always room for more,” he said.
He said government assistance to Community Information and Support Victoria (CISVic), the umbrella body for community support centre on the peninsula, recently dropped to pre-pandemic levels, while food relief charities had also missed out in the 2023 federal budget.
Foodbank, OzHarvest and SecondBite have issued statements expressing their disappointment that no extra money was included as part of a $45 million package of measures to ease cost of living pressures, including an increase to Jobseeker payments.
To find out more or donate see below:
To donate or volunteer at a community support centre go to cisvic.org.au or phone 9672 2000.