Food companies assisting Victorian Bushfire Recovery Program but more donors needed

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 12th February 2009

VicRelief Foodbank, Victoria’s largest independent emergency relief resource centre, in partnership with some of Australia’s largest food manufacturers, has begun the task of preparing long-term aid support for local communities severely damaged by the disastrous Victorian bushfires.

Announcing the establishment of its Victorian Bushfire Recovery Program, Philip Hunt, CEO, of VicRelief Foodbank, said that this was a disaster of such historical and significant proportion that it was vital to get these preparations underway now. “The immediate food and material aid support provided by other organisations and the general public has been magnificent, but our experience shows this level of assistance would soon begin to diminish. That’s why it is essential that someone is focussed on providing sustainable food and material resources over what will be an extraordinarily long recovery period. That’s where we come in,” he explained.

Foodbank logo

Mr Hunt said that to achieve this objective VicRelief Foodbank would not only rely on its long history and experience in disaster recovery, dating back to the 1939 ‘Black Friday’ bushfire tragedy, but also match this with a nation-wide food and material resource network of some of Australia’s largest companies. “More than 12 companies have already committed to support our recovery program and begun delivering goods to our Yarraville warehouse and our staff are fielding enquiries from all over Australia through the Foodbank Australia network – of which we are member. But a disaster of this dimension requires more companies to become involved,” he advised.

“In particular, we are seeking bulk donations of non-perishable staple food products such as pasta, rice, cereals, canned fruit, vegetables, meat and fish, and tea and coffee; products that have a long shelf life and can be rolled out over a long recovery period which may last up to a year or more,” Mr Hunt said.

The VicRelief Foodbank warehouse complex at Yarraville had been purpose-built by the Victorian Government to accommodate the need in case of such a disaster, and had the capacity to store many tonnes of goods. They are working with organisations such as the Brotherhood of St Laurence to secure and store essential items such as bedding, toiletries, kitchen and dinnerware and other household goods.

“Within a matter of days, victims of the bushfires will be moving on from emergency relief conditions to more organised recovery centres,” Mr Hunt reported. “This will be the next critical stage of the recovery process and one where affected people will once again feel they can take control of their lives. Giving immediate and ongoing access to the basic essentials such as food, bedding and other household goods is essential to the the physical and mental well-being as they begin the difficult task of re-building their lives.”

He added that VicRelief Foodbank was already collaborating with networks of emergency relief organisations in the vicinity of the bushfire zones to ensure that the on-going distribution of essential goods to victims of the bushfires would not be a problem. “These networks are well established as a result of the regular role we play in the
emergency welfare sector, and the work we have been doing in drought recovery on behalf of the Victorian Government, over a long period of time. And, with the assistance of these organisations as well as local government personnel, we know the support levels in these communities will be there for the long-haul.”

Companies which are already supporting the VicRelief Foodbank Bushfire Recovery Program include:
· Goodman Fielder
· Kraft
· Coca Cola
· Cadbury Schweppes
· George Weston Foods
· Kimberley Clark
· Allied Mills
· Sugar Australia
· Bon Foods
· Pacific Brands
· Melbourne Markets

Companies can contribute to the program by contacting:
VicRelief Foodbank
Tel: 9362 8300
Philip Hunt can be contacted on Mobile: 0407 007 040