A new initiative during COVID-19 meant Vinnies WA was able meet community demand when food relief needs rapidly increased.
It was identified very early on that food insecurity would be a major issue for people amid business shut downs, food shortages and the economic impact of the disruptions. In response to this, the Vinnies WA Emergency Relief Hamper program began in April with the aim to create and distribute hampers to people experiencing challenges meeting their basic food needs.
Determining what to include in the hampers was a critical first step which was guided by the WA Food Policy Index and some initial advice from the WA Health Department. Hampers were stocked with non-perishable items for a week’s worth of food which required no refrigeration or special preparation, and included recipes for meal ideas to help families get the most use out of what they were receiving. When supermarket shortages peaked in that first month, having a stable supply of items such as rice and pasta for hampers became extremely difficult.
In an attempt to make up the shortfalls and continue to provide vital support to vulnerable people during the crisis, the Vinnies Drive and Drop project was launched which lead to a callout to the general public for the donation of specific food items. Four closed Vinnies shops were chosen as locations for people to drop off food items, but this soon extended to food collections done by other community groups such as the Knights of the Southern Cross and Shree Kutchi Leva Patel Community as well as Newman College. Thanks to the generosity of the public a total of 8500 food items was collected for hampers in just a short few weeks.
Andrew York, Vinnies WA Executive Manager of Member and Volunteer Services explained that Vinnies agility, and the generous Western Australian public quickly guaranteed the project’s success. “Vinnies has always had this amazing ability to adapt our resources and operation to meet people and community need. We really want to act quickly so by engaging the community, as well as funding from Department of Social Security and LotteryWest, we were able to all work together so people could receive basic food supplies.”
affected by the pandemic, a collaboration between Vinnies WA and three local councils was formed when Stirling, Bayswater and Wanneroo were determined to be experiencing high food insecurity. One of the biggest shires, the City of Stirling, offered council staff, stood down at the time, to sort donated food items and pack hampers. The closed Vinnies Stirling shop was turned into a makeshift hamper packing and distribution point that from there was delivered to the Council’s collection point each week for people registered to receive one.
The bulk of the hamper preparation has now shifted to Vinnies Canning Vale Distribution Centre where half a dozen volunteers, three afternoons a week are managing to pack at least 300 hampers. The project is also being supplemented with donations from schools, Pisconeri Fine Food and Wine supplying up to 50 hampers per week, and Curtin University providing volunteer students to pack hampers. Vinnies WA is currently distributing hampers weekly through two councils and a collection of agencies, while also slowly accruing a store of food, ready for an expected increase in requests for help in coming months. “This project has been a huge undertaking to be able to respond community need in a such a short space of time which was only possible through the team effort of Vinnies volunteers, staff and shop support. The partnerships we have formed and support we have received also allows us to work towards the expected change of circumstance for many people as government benefits cease, a possible second wave of the virus may loom, and how long this crisis will continue.” Andrew said.
Much unpredictability in the coming months means the project is regularly being reviewed but Vinnies WA is well placed to continue its hamper distribution at least until September dependent on demand. This project has demonstrated Vinnies WA ability to adapt and provide an ongoing commitment to people when times are hard.