• Foodbank CEO Brianna Casey. 

Covid, ongoing poverty and inequality and natural disasters saw Foodbank Australia provide almost 87 million meals – 230,000 meals per day – in 2021. CEO Brianna Casey says the ongoing need for huge volumes of food and groceries relief shows many Australians are still doing it extremely tough.
    Foodbank CEO Brianna Casey. Covid, ongoing poverty and inequality and natural disasters saw Foodbank Australia provide almost 87 million meals – 230,000 meals per day – in 2021. CEO Brianna Casey says the ongoing need for huge volumes of food and groceries relief shows many Australians are still doing it extremely tough.
  • Covid, ongoing poverty and inequality and natural disasters saw Foodbank Australia provide almost 87 million meals – 230,000 meals per day – in 2021. CEO Brianna Casey says the ongoing need for huge volumes of food and groceries relief shows many Australians are still doing it extremely tough.
    Covid, ongoing poverty and inequality and natural disasters saw Foodbank Australia provide almost 87 million meals – 230,000 meals per day – in 2021. CEO Brianna Casey says the ongoing need for huge volumes of food and groceries relief shows many Australians are still doing it extremely tough.
  • Covid, ongoing poverty and inequality and natural disasters saw Foodbank Australia provide almost 87 million meals – 230,000 meals per day – in 2021. CEO Brianna Casey says the ongoing need for huge volumes of food and groceries relief shows many Australians are still doing it extremely tough.
    Covid, ongoing poverty and inequality and natural disasters saw Foodbank Australia provide almost 87 million meals – 230,000 meals per day – in 2021. CEO Brianna Casey says the ongoing need for huge volumes of food and groceries relief shows many Australians are still doing it extremely tough.
  • Covid, ongoing poverty and inequality and natural disasters saw Foodbank Australia provide almost 87 million meals – 230,000 meals per day – in 2021. CEO Brianna Casey says the ongoing need for huge volumes of food and groceries relief shows many Australians are still doing it extremely tough.
    Covid, ongoing poverty and inequality and natural disasters saw Foodbank Australia provide almost 87 million meals – 230,000 meals per day – in 2021. CEO Brianna Casey says the ongoing need for huge volumes of food and groceries relief shows many Australians are still doing it extremely tough.
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This article first appeared in the April 2022 edition of Food & Drink Business

Australia produces enough food for 75million people every year – enough to feed our entire population three times over – yet we have a significant hunger problem. Foodbank Australia CEO Brianna Casey is at the forefront of finding solutions.

When Foodbank released its 2021 Hunger Report it revealed one in six adults and 1.2 million children in Australia went hungry last year. How can this be?

The hunger problem in our country isn’t new. Foodbank has been tracking food insecurity in Australia since 2012 and while the root causes vary, what has been a constant throughout is the diversity of people touched by this issue.

Covid, ongoing poverty and inequality and natural disasters saw Foodbank Australia provide almost 87 million meals – 230,000 meals per day – in 2021. CEO Brianna Casey says the ongoing need for huge volumes of food and groceries relief shows many Australians are still doing it extremely tough.

Food relief is not only being sought out by those who are homeless and unemployed, but also working families, refugees, single parents, school leavers, First Nations People and many more.

Covid-19 has helped shine a spotlight on the prevalence of food insecurity in Australia, and just how quickly job security, housing security and financial security can be eroded. In fact, one in three people struggling to meet their food needs are new to the situation.

These people will look back on this period as the toughest time they’ve ever faced and remember what it was like to be forced to decide between buying food or paying the electricity bill, because they couldn’t afford to do both.

For others, the pandemic served only to highlight the harsh realities of poverty and inequality in Australia.

We know that those struggling before the pandemic have been hit the hardest and will find it the most difficult, if not impossible, to even recover to where they were before the crisis.

The great pivot

Not only did Covid affect demand for food relief, but also the way in which relief providers responded to people in crisis.

To borrow one of the most over-used words in the pandemic, Foodbanks right across the country had to pivot from existing models of distributing food relief via a network of thousands of frontline agencies and a small number of client-facing Foodbank hubs, to mobile foodbanks, pop-up markets and a strong reliance on emergency relief hampers.

Supply vs demand

Foodbank is now providing relief to more than one million people per month through a network of 2950 front-line charities, with Foodbanks across the country also supporting 2890 schools through highly successful initiatives such as School Breakfast Programs.

In 2021, we sourced 48.1 million kilograms of food and groceries, equating to 241,000 meals per day. 

This is a staggering volume of food relief given the supply chain constraints experienced at various points throughout the pandemic.

We would not have been able to maintain our supply in the face of adversity without enduring partnerships and the strong support of those who trust us to do what we do best.

Foodbank works with the entire Australian food and grocery industry – farmers, wholesalers, manufacturers, and retailers – plus our invaluable transport and logistics providers, to source fresh and manufactured foods as well as personal and household care items for those in need.

Donations can include stock that doesn’t meet industry specifications, is close to expiry or surplus, and we also see many companies make proactive donations as a key plank of their corporate social responsibility commitments.

The food and grocery industry may specialise in supply chains, but we specialise in surprise chains. No two days are alike when it comes to the quantity or variety of supply, but every product is appreciated.

Bringing Predictability to our Surprise Chains

Long before Covid, RATS, PCRs and lockdowns became part of our everyday vernacular, we knew that as generous as our donors were, we would not always have a steady stream of key essentials such as pasta, pasta sauce, eggs or breakfast cereal.

Covid, ongoing poverty and inequality and natural disasters saw Foodbank Australia provide almost 87 million meals – 230,000 meals per day – in 2021. CEO Brianna Casey says the ongoing need for huge volumes of food and groceries relief shows many Australians are still doing it extremely tough.

We knew we had to be creative and find another way to ensure we had an ongoing supply, all on a not-for-profit budget. We created the world’s first Collaborative Supply Program.

Supported by the Federal Department of Social Services, the program sees us work with manufacturers and their component suppliers to produce a sustainable source of key staple foods that don’t come in sufficient quantities via normal rescue channels.

Companies like Simplot, Mars, Masterfoods and General Mills work with us and their ingredient suppliers, transport companies, and packaging providers to manufacture in-demand products and ensure we are able to provide essentials such as rice, milk and pasta to those who need it the most, year-round.

Supply Chain Resilience

Whilst we pride ourselves in our planning, preparedness, partnerships, and resilience, we are as vulnerable as anyone else when it comes to the fragility of our supply chains in Australia. 

Covid, ongoing poverty and inequality and natural disasters saw Foodbank Australia provide almost 87 million meals – 230,000 meals per day – in 2021. CEO Brianna Casey says the ongoing need for huge volumes of food and groceries relief shows many Australians are still doing it extremely tough.

Supply chain disruption doesn't only affect commercial supply; it affects Foodbank too. We have seen just how disastrous the knock-on effects of natural disasters can be on our supply chains.

The recent South Australian floods saw both road and rail access from the state into the Northern Territory and Western Australia completely severed.

This had a devastating impact on our ability to get fresh produce and key staples from Foodbank SA to the Foodbank Central Australia Hub in Alice Springs.

We worked closely with state, territory, and federal governments – as well as industry – on solutions to ensure vital food could be delivered to remote communities across Central Australia.

As always, we worked hard to ensure vulnerable communities were not forgotten during this crisis, just as we do in every crisis.

Promising Future

I’m probably the only CEO in the country whose ultimate KPI is to do myself out of a job! At Foodbank, we strive to achieve zero hunger in Australia, but we’ve got some work to do as a country for us to get there.

There are some relatively simple – but hugely impactful – initiatives that could not only increase food relief volumes, but also reduce food loss and waste.

The introduction of a National Food Waste Tax Incentive would be a game-changer, providing a tax incentive for both the donation of food as well as related services, including freight, packaging, storage, and distribution.

It would further incentivise the reduction of food waste in Australia, stimulate regional economies and reward those who donate rather than dump perfectly edible food.

We also need to work together to better understand why hunger is happening in Australia and how to ensure safe, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food relief is available to everyone who needs it, when they need it the most.

We are so proud of the role we play in helping vulnerable Australians, and so grateful for the invaluable support we receive to enable us to do this.

Our experience with natural disasters tells us it will be a long road to recovery, but we must not forget the new perspective we have gained through this pandemic.

The circumstances that put people into food insecurity before the virus will still be with us and food relief will remain a critically important part of the solution.

 

Foodbank CEO Brianna Casey. 
Covid, ongoing poverty and inequality and natural disasters saw Foodbank Australia provide almost 87 million meals – 230,000 meals per day – in 2021. CEO Brianna Casey says the ongoing need for huge volumes of food and groceries relief shows many Australians are still doing it extremely tough.

Brianna Casey is CEO of Foodbank Australia, the country’s largest hunger relief organisation. Her career in social policy and advocacy has spanned agripolitics, sustainability, and early childhood education.

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