More than just a meal

OzHarvest volunteers making one of their regular collections from Woolworths Merimbula.
OzHarvest volunteers making one of their regular collections from Woolworths Merimbula.

For those families struggling to make ends meet or even pay for the basics, help with putting food on the table can provide more than a meal.

Michael Palmer co-ordinates part of the OzHarvest food rescue work in the Bega Valley, a job which dovetails into his role as the Anglicare Rural Chaplain.

"Food is a basic need and when people feel a level of anxiety about the basics then it is hard to see a way forward in other struggles," Mr Palmer said.

"Households living on the margins experience significant levels of deprivation as they choose between having sufficient food to feed their families, securing stable and affordable accommodation and paying utility and medical bills.

"The experience can be one of isolation and social disconnection from family and friends, and a significant struggle to protect their children from the worst effects of such poverty. Never being sure of where to source the next meal or not being sure if the family will be fed adequately for the rest of the week clearly generates stress, anger and anxiety," Mr Palmer explained.

Which is where OzHarvest and its band of volunteers comes in, with considerable help from local businesses and in particular Woolworths at Merimbula and Tura Beach.

Each month enough food is collected to provide almost 4000 meals.

"The food rescue support that OzHarvest provides to welfare agencies is a welcome relief and reminds folk that they are not alone and that others care," Mr Palmer said.

It can not only meet an immediate need but can take away a stress and allow a family some breathing space to work through some of their financial issues," Mr Palmer said.

OzHarvest collects food from Woolworths and provides it to a number of local organisations such as the Merimbula Anglican Church's Tea and Toast or the Eden Community Lunch.

"It is a very rewarding experience to be the bringers of such practical support for the welfare agencies which we assist," Mr Palmer said.

OzHarvest is looking for more volunteers to help with pick ups from Woolworths. If anyone would like to explore volunteering with OzHarvest contact Michael on 0423 774 735 or at

Food facts

How much: In an average month OzHarvest collects 1.326 tons of food which the organisation says is the equivalent of 3980 meals.

Who is involved: OzHarvest, in partnership with Anglicare (& Sapphire Coast Anglican Parish), receives good food from retailers, mainly Woolworths, and distributes it to welfare organisations.

What state is the food in: The food is edible but is either approaching its 'used by date' or is in excess because of unforeseen 'over-stocking'. 

Where does it go: Food is received for free and distributed for free. The current regular list of receiving welfare organisations are:

Salvation Army - BVS, Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Community & Medical Services, Women's Resource Centre, Bega, Bega Community Pantry, Uniting Church Op Shop, Tura Beach, Disability Trust, Sapphire Support Services, Eden Community Lunch, St.James' House 'Tea and Toast' Breakfast, Merimbula, Kids Club at the Aboriginal Evangelical Church, Eden.

What are the benefits: Rescuing food in this way is an activity that alleviates hunger, reduces waste, conserves the environment, builds family and community cohesion, serves other welfare and caring agencies and creates goodwill.