Tackling Hunger in our Communities on the South Coast – Online Workshop
Tuesday 24 October 2023
Twelve IRCF participants came together from across the South Coast to explore the question “How can we leverage the collective strength and capacity of our organisations to collaboratively tackle hunger in our communities?” Participants represented the following organisations: FRRR, Inasmuch, Monty’s Place Narooma, Uniting Bay & Basin Community Food Pantry, Nowra Community Food Store, and the Salvation Army.
These representatives gathered to address the pressing issue plaguing their communities: food insecurity. This collaborative effort reflects a commitment to making a tangible impact and a strong desire to alleviate hunger in the region. The workshop’s outcomes highlight the challenges faced, the strengths they possess, and the strategies they aim to implement in the ongoing fight against food insecurity.
Why They Gathered
Each participant in the workshop shared their motivations for being involved in the battle for food insecurity. Their reasons ranged from witnessing an alarming increase in hunger within the community to opening food pantries and a genuine desire to learn from the experiences of others. These not-for-profits also aimed to share their own community support initiatives that have been working for them, including the provision of frozen meals, community cafes, and hampers.
What’s Working: Building on Strengths
The participants identified several key factors contributing to their effectiveness in addressing food insecurity. These include a dedicated team of committed volunteers, the establishment of long-term trust within the community, and the presence of community gardens, which provide fresh produce for those in need. Support from external organisations, such as Foodbank, Woolworths, Aldi and OzHarvest, has been instrumental in bolstering their efforts. Furthermore, collaborations with local businesses, like local bakers, have proven invaluable. Well-equipped facilities, including the necessary hardware and freezers to preserve meals, also contribute to their effectiveness.
What’s Still Needed: Addressing Gaps in the System
While the NFPs have achieved significant success, they acknowledge critical areas where improvements are necessary. They emphasised the need for more volunteers to expand operating hours and ensure sustainability, especially considering the limitations faced by by organisations relying on aging volunteers. They also recognise that they must better inform their communities about the range of food and support services available. Overcoming stigma, particularly for isolated and vulnerable populations, remains a challenge. Participants also identified that there is a need for resolve the cynical perception that questions if it is genuine need or opportunistic greed.
Additionally, there’s a call for a more stable source of foodstuff, as the core supply is often insufficient. Fresh produce and access to other aligned services, such as legal aid and social connections, were identified as critical missing elements.
The Path Forward: Collective Action and Ongoing Collaboration
Participants recognised that solutions lie in collective advocacy. They plan to engage with the government more effectively, advocating for increased support and resources for their cause. A centralised location for coordinating and distributing resources emerged as a potential strategy to streamline their efforts and ensure that resources are directed where they are needed most.
Furthermore, they will create a list of food support organisations across the South Coast to foster stronger cooperation. The not-for-profits aim to explore ways to promote and increase local support, both in terms of volunteerism and donated goods. Collaboration with other service providers and an ongoing commitment to staying connected and informed about grants and funding opportunities will be instrumental in their efforts.
The workshops outcomes underscore the dedication and resilience of South Coast NFPs in their fight against food insecurity. By acknowledging their strengths and identifying areas for improvement, these organisations are taking a proactive approach to creating a better future for their communities. Their commitment to collaboration and collective advocacy demonstrates their determination to overcome challenges and build a more food-secure region. The journey ahead is marked by hope, determination, and the potential for transformation in the lives of those they support.