The shelves of a food pantry that provides much-needed emergency supplies to Wollongong's needy is almost bare, despite a month-long food drive.
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Each Spring, Wollongong Homeless Hub conducts a food drive to restock shelves that have been depleted after the winter months.
But this year's drive has seen half the normal donations come in, and coupled with unprecedented requests for assistance, this has led to shelves being stripped almost bare.
Mandy Booker is the chief executive of the recently rebranded Wollongong Homeless Hub and Housing Services.
She said the annual Spring Food Drive would now be extended all the way until Christmas after donations failed to materialise due the current cost of living crisis.
"What we are finding at the moment is because the country is currently struggling with the increased cost of living, the normal donors, the people who would usually put one or two extra things in their shopping trolley to donate to us, just aren't doing that," she said.
"At the same time, we have seen an increase in demand for food services in the past three to six months, which has depleted our supplies.
"So it is a perfect storm."
She said the result was a "very bare" food pantry after they received roughly half the amount of donations they would normally get.
At the same time, Ms Booker said demand increased "at least 25 per cent" in the past six months.
She said they were also seeing more requests for help from "areas of the community" that didn't usually need support, due to the rising cost of living, including rents, and mortgages.
"We are certainly seeing an increase in people who are working but have had to prioritise their spending with rents going up, groceries going up, mortgage payments increasing," she said.
While they prioritise offering assistance to those who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness, many others in the community are feeling the pinch right now.
"There have been people connecting with us who have accommodation or even houses that they own but they can't afford to eat," she said.
Ms Booker said the jump in the cost of petrol and diesel when the temporary excise cut ends this week will also put a further strain on those already doing it rough.
And she said there was no end in sight.
"I think the increasing cost of living, and with the petrol prices going up, even people who have a part-time job or a full-time job, are going to find it harder, with pressures on the weekly budget," she said.
To restock food pantry supplies, the organisation is particularly after UP&GO and similar drinks, bottled water and juice poppers, instant coffee in jars and sachets, smaller 200ml containers of long life milk, fruit cups, sweet and savoury snack foods, canned soup, canned meals such as ravioli, meat and beans, bamboo and plastic spoons, takeaway coffee cups and disposable bowls.
Canned items that have ring pulls are preferred.
You can donate items directly to Wollongong Homeless Hub premises at 34-40 Lady Penrhyn Drive, Unanderra, Monday-Friday, 9am-4pm.
A drop-off point has also been set up at Bendigo Bank branch at Fairy Meadow.
Please leave items during business hours only.
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