FOOD relief for clients at the Mount Gambier Community Centre stepped up under an ongoing partnership with national non-profit organisation SecondBite in 2019. SecondBite provides access to fresh, nutritious food for people in need across Australia by partnering with retailers to divert surplus items from landfill to more than 1300 charities around the country providing food relief to people in need. Under a partnership with SecondBite, ac.care team members, along with students from Tenison Woods College, collect food from ALDI and Coles outlets in Mount Gambier on a daily basis. Items include bread, dairy products, meat, fruit and vegetables, which are made available for visitors to the centre to collect at no charge and with no obligation. Many of these people are clients of ac.care’s homelessness and financial support programs, while others are in vulnerable situations and sometimes visit to collect food a few times before becoming familiar with staff and asking for help through the agency’s broader services. “The food is very popular with clients visiting our centre and for many it makes the difference of having fresh food or in some cases any food at all,” community services program manager Sue Watt said. Bread supplied through the daily collections has also been used for making toasted sandwiches at the centre, which have long proven popular with clients who connect with staff and other visitors while pausing for a snack.
While special measures were put in place around providing food in line with COVID-19 restrictions, Ms Watt said the availability of produce was vital to support community members who had lost employment or were struggling financially during the uncertain times. “It also encouraged people to engage with ac.care so they could learn about our services and how we could help create opportunities to improve their situation,” she said. Collection of donated produce through the new SecondBite partnership builds on existing supplies of food, including non-perishable items, provided through ongoing arrangements with FoodbankSA.