Thanks to the Border Mail for shining a light on the cost of living concerns across our region.
By Beau Greenway
Thousands of Border families are seeking additional support to secure housing and put food on the table as they navigate the cost of living crisis.
While inflation growth has slowed, the pressure remains on stretched households.
Albury Wodonga Regional Foodshare’s community pantry, a social supermarket to cater for those unable to put food on the table, has more than 1000 people through its doors each month.
Coordinator Nicole Eirth said she had noticed a steady increase in the service. One month in particular saw two extra people come in per day.
“It’s not open for just anyone to use. They have to be in some sort of crisis,” she said.
“That can be a really large range of people because you’ve got working poor, people that are on apprentice wages, got a mortgage, got family and still struggling to put food on the table.
“The other reason that I’ve found a lot of it is people having a health crisis. Someone in the family has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or they have an illness that they have to go to specialist for and that is taking a lot of money out of their budgets.”
Ms Eirth said a voucher system used by the supermarket could be utilised until the individual or family was out of the crisis situation.
“It’s a great way to help them to budget for food and to get a better control over their food insecurity,” she said.
“Our focus is on fresh, healthy foods. We do have a full fruit and vegetable department and every voucher gets between three to five kilos of fresh fruit and vegetables, they get half a dozen eggs, they get a meat product, they get a couple of frozen products, they get dairy products and they also get pantry staples. Hygiene and cleaning is also very important to our people.
“It gives them back that independence to choose what they need, because they know what’s in their cupboards, they know what people eat and they know what they can cook.
“It’s about building a community, a village and everyone in the community working together with the end result of getting that person better equipped to deal with their food insecurity.
Meanwhile, Junction Support Services, a North East agency that assists people who are disadvantaged through poverty, homelessness, family breakdown, social isolation, family violence, mental ill health and drug and alcohol addiction, has seen a jump in demand for support in the past two-and-a-half to three years.
Chief executive Megan Hanley said Junction Support Services had more 130 families waiting for assistance, including housing and homelessness support, with cost of living pressures the major contributor.
“Our community is rebuilding after the pandemic, bushfires and floods. The rising costs of living really amplify the challenges so many families and individuals face,” she said.
“A worrying concern is that Albury-Wodonga was among the top LGAs that people relocated to from metropolitan areas during COVID-19, and Wodonga is one of the fastest-growing regional cities in Victoria.”
Ms Hanley said there was huge pressure on the agency’s resources.
“We have a 12-month wait list for many of our support services, including people seeking homelessness support, to re-engage with education services, and also for therapeutic support for family violence,” she said.
“That is a demand that we can’t keep up with.”