Posted on November 22, 2023 in News

“If it wasn’t for Geelong Food Relief Centre, our clients would get very little choice.”

Surveys, focus groups, and interviews from the Food For Thought Research were in consensus that demand for food relief has increased, and is expected to continue rising. Agencies also experience changes in demand with regard to changing client cohorts and complexity.

Geelong Food Relief Centre

The Geelong Food Relief Centre coordinates the collection and redistribution of donated and surplus food to over 50 community support agencies, and operates two mini-marts where people with vouchers can shop for groceries, via referral from agencies.

“We have two mini -mart locations, which service individuals who come via agency referral. The agencies provide the social support across all areas of people’s lives. A 20 point voucher will provide $120 – $140 worth of groceries.”

The Geelong Food Relief Centre operates at an immense scale, with 38,589 individuals supporting through minimarts in 2022-2023 and 850,000kgs of food distributed in the same year. The size and outputs of Geelong Food
Relief contribute to the availability and stability dimensions of food security in the region, and minimarts and vouchers encourage agency by providing choice for clients.

The organisation is funded through grants from state and local government, which provide 40% of revenue, with the remaining funding from other sources. The Centre has a team of over 125 volunteers who sort and redistribute over 80 tonnes of food each month. A strong volunteer base enables cost-efficient services and reduces reliance on purchased food.

“We’ve increased our donated supply by 122% last year and reduced our purchasing by 78%. And I think a lot of that’s got to do with the work we’ve done in terms of having the volunteers that are capable of sorting the food.”

Geelong Food Relief has more recently focused on improving relationships, safety standards, and professionalism, positioning itself as a leader in food relief and building its profile to attract additional donors and funding. Geelong Food Relief sees its role as supporting community groups and wants to provide a hub for groups to come together.

Stakeholder engagement is a priority, focusing on understanding and responding to the needs of agencies and building a skilled and supported volunteer base. The Centre is working to build trust and encourage
collaboration between the agencies it serves to increase efficiency, though agencies also need to maintain independence in the event that the Centre’s supply chain is disrupted.

Participants in focus groups and interviews praised the role Geelong Food Relief plays in the food relief sector in G21. “The direction of the Geelong Food Relief Centre is amazing. The way they’re really kind of stepping into their role as a food distribution hub for other agencies… the potential pressure that that can take off the system as well as the funders is actually really amazing”.

“I think that their role has changed a little bit in that they’re providing support, broad spectrum. And they’re trying to actually target more individually to our needs…Which is really good.”

“I think that Geelong Food Relief are doing amazing work and they’re an amazing organisation and they’re heavily funded and they’re good.”

Through their services, the dimensions of food security addressed by Geelong Food Relief include availability, stability, and agency. “We deliver free bulk food to agencies for them to distribute to their communities. We’re also
continually aiming to adapt to the social need by increasing our minimart hours to be open until 7pm on Tuesday and Thursday, and 9-12.30 on a Saturday.”

“We are continually working on increasing our supply chains with the aim to provide stability of
supply for our agencies”

“Our Mini-mart service allows individuals to shop with the dignity of choice and have a normal shopping experience, rather than receiving goods they didn’t choose and may not use. We attempt to do the same with agency distribution – we try and match their requests as best we can.”