Craig Budden, our rescued food expert, takes the opportunity this Anti-Poverty Week (13 – 19 October) to shine a light on how rescued food plays a significant role in alleviating how people and families living on the margins can access food.

In Australia, nearly four million people experience food insecurity each year and one quarter of these are children. It’s a shocking thought when you consider that in the same timeframe we could fill 9,000 Olympic swimming pools with the food waste ending up in our landfill.

This is the reason BaptistCare HopeStreet is so passionate about rescued food. Through organisations like Oz Harvest and SecondBite, we’re able to redistribute - on average - 104 tonnes of reclaimed fruit, vegetables and bread across our Newcastle-based Wallsend, Windale and Mayfield community centres every year to people in need.

Food affordability is a significant issue experienced by families and individuals struggling to make ends meet. Valuable fruit, vegetables and bread - combined with emergency food packs, nutritious hot meals and access to low cost grocery items - is all vital sustenance for families and individuals who would otherwise go hungry, unable to afford a healthy diet.

So many people, young and old, are able to eat simply because they had access to food that would have normally been thrown away for no reason at all, except that it didn’t meet the high standards of retail.

The produce that doesn’t meet quality control is still perfectly nutritional and edible, it just may have a mark on it and a lot of occasions, we access produce in A1 condition without any blemishes at all.

If not rescued by organisations like Oz Harvest and SecondBite this produce would all end up either in landfill or handed over to the local pig farmer.

With the high prices of fresh produce, many low to middle income earners either go without or purchase a very limited amount of what is an essential healthy diet requirement. They instead choose a cheaper, less nutritional, food source.

Our BaptistCare HopeStreet teams are seeing firsthand that food distress is on the rise dramatically, and people are in desperate need of low cost food, a free meal, or emergency relief to ensure they do eat.

Almost all - if not all - of our clients are low to middle income earners, and are on Centrelink payments. With the combined expense of rentals, utilities and nutritional food, many go without essential food items.

In this case, where we’re seeing parents who can’t afford to feed their children, nutrition is a secondary concern to actually being able to access food.

For some, the only option of a healthy diet, or close to it, is having access to the low cost food outlets like our own. A typical shop here could save an individual or a family between 50% and 70% off what it would cost at a regular supermarket.

I say ‘save’ but realistically there is no saving as they didn’t have the money in the first place, so here shoppers are able to stretch their dollar further and get a whole lot more food on the table for the small amount of coin they have.

To put this into context, imagine a family is able to spend $30 at BaptistCare HopeStreet’s low cost grocery store. This equates to around $60 to $70 at the supermarket. If this family also received a hamper of rescued fruit and vegetables, the value would be around $30 to $50 retail. The family leaves the store with up to $120 value of food for that $30.

We know healthy nutritional produce is a key essential ingredient in our diets, yet so many people cannot afford to purchase these items. Instead they are often forced to purchase foods that are cheaper but are a less healthy option.

There are many publications and community concerns around about the level of obesity with in our communities, yet supermarket chains still throw out perfectly good, healthy and essential foods for no reason other than trying to chase the top dollar for that produce.

These foods don’t need to be thrown into landfill or pig pen. Thousands of families across the region and further afield are now able to have fruit and veg in their diet through the rescue efforts of organisations like Oz Harvest and SecondBite, and the support of local charities like our own.

At BaptistCare HopeStreet, we believe that everyone has the right to access food that is affordable and nutritious. We come around people and families to give them access to food, and more than that, we provide a safe place to come and ask for help - and find hope - as they connect with people who truly care about them.

Hunger is very real for people who struggle to afford food. Your support will help individuals and families to put food on the table. Please donate this Anti-Poverty Week, to help our HopeStreet teams to connect with people in need, and ensure they have access to affordable and nutritious food.

Craig Budden is the manager at BaptistCare HopeStreet Wallsend.

Craig Budden

Manager, BaptistCare HopeStreet