SUNRAYSIA’S community relief services were overwhelmed this week as hundreds of households were thrown into isolation at short notice amid Mildura’s COVID-19 outbreak.
Sunraysia’s community food relief hub, operated at the Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council (SMECC) headquarters on Twelfth Street, has delivered more than 350 food boxes and meals to households this week.
According to SMECC interim executive officer Joelle Brown, it’s “a massive increase”.
“Probably about 90 per cent of them (are people who haven’t accessed food relief before),” she estimated.
“We’ve had a massive increase … we normally do about 100-150 for the week, so there’s a lot of new people there and a lot of them are probably in isolation.”
SMECC offers fresh produce, bread, non-perishables, baby formula and even toiletries and nappies to families in need of groceries.
“We are also making 400 fresh meals a week, which are frozen, and they get distributed as well among the food parcels,” Mrs Brown said.
“We’re trying to make sure everyone has a bit of everything.”
All the food parcels are customised to each recipient’s needs, including dietary issues and religious constraints, such as halal diets.
The food relief hub also gets support from Mildura Council and other organisations to offer food relief to the community.
The council’s community care services manager Cheree Jukes told Sunraysia Daily she had seen first-hand the “huge spike” in need for food relief in the past week.
“Tuesday was the busiest day — SMECC delivered about 100 food parcels on Tuesday,” she said.
“We actually ran out of food.
“Our team at council literally went down to the supermarket and did the biggest grocery shop you can imagine.”
Ms Jukes put the added demand down to people out of work due to the lockdown, but largely households isolating due to tier 1 or 2 exposures.
“In this situation we had hundreds of people suddenly have to isolate at really short notice and they’ve got no way of accessing food,” she said.
“And they’ve got no way of accessing food — because at the moment Coles and Woolies are telling us there’s a four-day delay for delivery.”
Both Mrs Brown and Ms Jukes moved to reassure people concerned about feeding their families as they await the end of their quarantine period.
“We would never let anyone go hungry,” Ms Jukes said.
“There’s an online form which is available on council’s website for access to our community relief team.
“Individuals or agencies or organisations can simply go online and place a food order directly with SMECC.
“We’ll provide rapid response to community members who need access to food, prescription medications or any other essential during the current pandemic.”
Residents with a friend or loved one struggling can order a food package on their behalf through the online form.
“People who have never, ever, ever had to ask for help are in a situation where they need to ask for help,” Ms Jukes said.
“Often people recognise a family or individual is in trouble through trusted relationships. It might be through a school or even a sporting group, then the schools … can actually just put in a request for 10 food parcels or whatever and they can get them to families who need them.”
According to Mrs Brown, SMECC’s team were “here to help” individuals and families hit by the latest iteration of the pandemic.
“If they order today, they’ll receive the food today — or at the worst, within 24 hours,” she said.
She emphasised that food relief was for everyone.
“There’s no shame at all in requesting food relief,” Mrs Brown said.
“People don’t have to explain themselves to anyone when they do it; and of course they don’t even have to see us when we deliver, because it’s contactless delivery.
“Perhaps they haven’t got any access to food and can’t get anything delivered. There’s no criteria as far as we’re concerned for food relief — if people request it and need it, we’re going to provide it.”
To place a food relief request through SMECC, visit smecc.org.au/community-food-relief.
For more information on Mildura Council’s community relief services, visit bit.ly/3kECfhM.