FAMILIES with young children are Christian Emergency Food Centre Horsham’s second most common clientele, after single individuals.
The centre’s client assessment manager Bev Miatke said providing food for young Wimmera families was one of its biggest challenges.
Her comments came as Foodbank released its first report into the prevalence of child hunger in Australia.
“We get a lot of requests for food for school lunches and snacks, and a lot of our clients are families with primary-aged children,” Mrs Miatke said.
“It’s a big issue in the region and it might be getting worse.
“What they tell us when they come in for an assessment might not be what their reality is; sometimes their reality is a lot worse than what they make it out to be.”
The Foodbank report found that one in five Australian children, or 22 per cent, experienced food insecurity during the past year. This was compared to 15 per cent of adults in the same time period.
The report said the major factor driving a growing need for hunger relief in Australia was the rising cost of living.
It also revealed that 18 per cent of food insecure children went to school without eating breakfast, 15 per cent go to school without a packed lunch or lunch money, and 11 per cent go to bed without eating dinner at least once a week.
Mrs Miatke said the situation was similar in the Wimmera.
“We have spoken to the schools and there are certainly a lot of children going without breakfast or lunch. We try to help out the schools’ breakfast and lunch programs when we can,” she said.
Horsham College offers multiple programs that provide students with food throughout their school day.
Assistant principal and alternate programs co-ordinator Adam Ross said the college’s Connect Ed program provided students with free lunches, while breakfast clubs were run at both its McKenzie Creek and Horsham campuses.
“Students who often come to school without eating breakfast do so because of a number of reasons, and sometimes it’s because of their family situation or living circumstances,” he said.
“The breakfast and lunch programs make sure students are fed so they can concentrate on school.”
The Christian Emergency Food Centre services about 3000 people across the Wimmera and sends food to clients in towns such as Warracknabeal, Nhill and Rainbow.
People wanting to help can do so through monetary and food donations.
“We’re always encouraging people to donate fresh fruit and veggies grown from home, or even eggs,” Mrs Miatke said.
The centre is open weekdays between 1pm and 3.45pm, and no bookings are needed.
A short interview is conducted when people visit the centre for the first time.
“We try to make it an easy process and that they don’t feel judged,” she said.