By world standards, Australia is one of the best fed countries. In spite of the vicissitudes of climate and a creeping drought line, we produce plenty of food, trade vigorously and respond to appeals for help in world famine trouble spots, sometimes generously, sometimes not as much as we could.
Even the most prosperous nations, however, have people who go hungry and whose children are malnourished. Within the urban sprawl of of our most populous cities and quieter regional centres, where surplus food is tossed or culled, there are families who wonder where their next meal is going to come from.
In the so-called leafy western suburbs of Perth, where old money and young professionals build family nests, there are also those who are down on their luck. The stereotype just doesn’t wash. Within a 5km radius of this expensive piece of real estate, there is a mix of brokenness, hard luck, income reduced by illness, separation, mental health, accident and a variety of human circumstances that overwhelm – whether it’s “one off”, periodically or chronically. And it’s Foodbank – An Australia Without Hunger to the rescue.
Our local expression is organised by four or five neighbouring churches. Locals know there is a place that’s open on Wednesday mornings where they can go and stock up without charge on fresh vegetables, staples and maybe even one or two luxuries. Donations from the local community, the regional Foodbank warehouse, and a generous citrus orcharder keep the shelves flowing over. A friendly “help yourself” policy sees respectful response as first time clients overcome natural tentativeness at seeking help and slowly become part of the community that gathers and lingers over coffee and cake, swapping yarns – helper and client alike.
World Food Day is a great opportunity to reflect on how much of our life and our community revolves around the hospitality of food – whether its plenteous or meagre. Involvement in the local Foodbank advances such contemplation.