Demand for food parcels has trebled since start of pandemic

Words by Rachael Fleury

Carlton’s Church of All Nations has provided emergency relief food packages to the community for more than a decade, but demand from the local community for food basics has trebled since the start of the pandemic.

Church of All Nations (CAN) executive officer, Cheryl Lawrie, said before the pandemic, around 20 to 30 people attended the market, but now between 60 and 80 people were attending each week.

People are even more reliant on our service to meet their basic needs now,” Ms Lawrie said.

Ms Lawrie said the cuts to JobKeeper payments on March 28 this year had made a big impact.

“Our stats say we barely got any people who were on JobKeeper coming to us for support during COVID because they were getting enough money to live, but now that JobKeeper has been removed, people don’t have money for their basic needs,” she said.

Nickolay Traykov, 52, was the head chef at one of Australia’s largest food service companies but was made redundant last year and said he had been forced to access the church’s emergency food packages since.

“People are really struggling since the COVID supplement stopped and I see people all around me who are surviving in very poor conditions, but with the help of Church of All Nations we are getting products, like fresh fruit and vegetables, or sometimes meat, that we couldn’t otherwise afford,” Mr Traykov said.

Church of All Nations community development worker Samy Ibrahim said the program offered the food relief packages on a “no questions asked” basis, and there were a number of short-term clients accessing the service for the first time. 

“There are the clients here that always need us, but there are others who are so embarrassed to come because they’ve never accessed a service like this before,” Mr Ibrahim said. 

“You never know what can happen in your life, and we’re here to help everyone. There’s one person who accesses the service because he was bashed in the head on the way home from a work Christmas party and received a brain injury.”

The Church of All Nations market runs every Thursday at 10.30am, and queues start forming from 8am.

“We used to start the market at 8am but we found that people were queuing from 5am in the dark ... people were very anxious the food would run out and there might not be enough for them,” Ms Lawrie said.

“People who aren’t eligible for emergency relief anywhere else will come to the market. We’ve got single people but also families with seven kids. It’s pretty expensive feeding a family with seven kids.”

Ms Lawrie said it costed the Church of All Nations between $80,000 and $100,000 to provide its emergency relief food programs. It received $28,000 from The City of Yarra and the City of Melbourne combined – the rest came from community donations.

The Church of All Nations Winter Appeal is on now •

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