CareNet’s cup runneth over and that’s causing a problem
by Sandi Miller
20th March 2023
THE NEED FOR food relief is surging due to what CareNet founder Kellie Wishart calls an “imperfect storm”, but the local food relief charity says it cannot keep up with the demand because it lacks the warehouse space to enable it to meet demand.
She said that while Manningham and Nillumbik are one of the more affluent areas of Melbourne, with the rising cost of living and incomes not matching those rising costs, there is an increase in people coming into financial hardship and food insecurity.
“We have a lot of refugees and asylum seekers, and we have a lot of seniors, but with the interest rate rises, and the cost of living, the cost of utilities, the cost of food, it’s not a perfect storm, it’s an imperfect storm, of life being very expensive to make people’s basic needs,” Kellie told M&N Bulletin.
She said demand for food relief is growing at a concerning rate.
“We’re seeing even mortgage holders come to us and say they just can’t afford food at the moment — they need help — we’re seeing a new part of the community tipping into food relief for no other reason than the rising cost of living.”
As a result, Kellie’s charity, CareNet, has never been busier; she said CareNet has gone from moving 300 kilograms of food per fortnight in 2019, to now moving 3,000 kilograms a week.
“Our food mostly goes across Manningham, Banyule, and Nillumbik.”
She said food from CareNet gets distributed through agencies like Adjani Living and Learning, DonCare, Greenhills Neighbourhood House, Diamond Valley Community Support, Warrandyte Rotary Op Shop and United Minds.
“We also have a developing network of satellite pantries.
“Currently, we are at Warrandyte Neighbourhood House, Wonga Park Community Cottage and have a mobile pantry as well,” Kellie said.
She says she uses innovative ways of distributing food relief because CareNet recognises, particularly for people who don’t identify as needing social services or have never experienced this kind of hardship before, they find it very “shame-triggering” and embarrassing to walk into a food relief service and receive help.
“This is partly why we use models like the mobile pantry and the satellite pantries because they’re more discrete.”
CareNet is also developing a social enterprise around reducing food waste, but it will also increase food accessibility and affordability for the community.
“It’ll be like a shop model because food affordability is a really big thing, and we want to make that accessible to all people without triggering shame,” Kellie said.
“CareNet does three things, we provide innovative models of food relief to the community, we provide food rescue, and we build capacity through partnerships with the community by assisting other food relief agencies to source enough food to resource their programs.”
She said people need more than a bag of pasta and pasta sauce and baked beans; they want fruits and vegetables, they want dairy and meat — and that’s something that CareNet is able to provide.
“The Doncaster East and Templestowe Village branches of Bendigo Bank bought us a refrigerated van this year, which has been an incredible help and resource for us, and we use that to go out to local supermarkets and pick up their excess stock, to divert it from landfill and to resource food relief efforts.
“I tend to steer away from the term food waste because it sounds like it’s garbage.
“The truth is that a good portion of what we’re rescuing is actually just excess stock; sometimes we get whole boxes of produce that haven’t even been opened,” she said.
However, Kellie says CareNet is struggling to meet the need, not because of a lack of food, but because they don’t have enough space to store it.
“We have had seven supermarkets reach out to us in the last four weeks, and we’ve not been able to take any of those opportunities.
“We’ve got the volunteers to pick it up, we’ve got the vehicle to pick it up, we’ve got the partners to be able to give it to, but it is the cold store — that is the constraining factor.
“The work is now of a scale that we need to move into a warehouse because we’re having eight to 10 pallets dropped per week at our front door,” Kellie said.|
“A very short-term solution for us would be to put a refrigerated container at the front of our building, but that would be only a very, very short-term solution because it still doesn’t help us with our ambient food storage.
“We have identified a property that would be perfect for us.
“We have seen it, we’ve identified it, but we cannot afford it.”
She said that applying for funding through grants takes time.
“We are faced with this issue right now because we knew we would outgrow this building within months”.
You can help Kellie has set up a GoFundMe page to accept donations to allow them to continue to provide food relief for everyone that needs it.
They have set a series of fundraising goals:
- $30,000 to purchase a refrigerated container to increase cold storage
- $80,000 to move into a warehouse
- $125,000 will achieve the above, plus buy an electric pallet jack
- $200,000 will achieve all of the above, plus launch a sustainability social enterprise store.
- $360,000 achieves everything, plus gives security on a three-year lease.
To make a tax-deductible donation, go to: www.gofundme.com/f/save-food-feed-families.