Free store supports needy

Food Bank free store recipient Lena. photograph hayley mills

Food Bank free store recipient Lena. photograph hayley mills

Hundreds of people doing it tough across the Latrobe Valley received a helping hand at the Food Bank free store market on Friday, held at Enjoy Church in Morwell.

More than 300 people attended the markets which had stalls providing free food produce and information from referral-based agencies and community groups.

Foodbank Victoria chief executive Dave McNamara said the pop-up farmers' market was all about bringing the community together "in a way that addresses the stigma and shame that comes along with not being able to feed yourself or your family".

"But if you hold something like a farmers' market where everyone is invited, you get to surround yourself with the community and you find that you are not alone," he said.

"A lot of the stigma attached with food insecurity is you feel that it is just you.

"When you are surrounded by your community and 300 other families, suddenly it halves or diminishes that shame."

Mr McNamara said the market was a celebratory event.

"You'll see face painting, a jumping castle and a sausage sizzle and that is because when the community knows there is an issue and they can see, especially in places like Morwell, [they] really gather together to fix the problem.

"There shouldn't be any shame about it because we all fall on hard times, we all make mistakes.

"So this is really about celebrating the frailty of us as people, but the strength of us as a community to come together a solve a problem."

As well as the produce available to market participants, there were a number of agency-based groups with stalls at the market. Latrobe Community Health Service offered showbags and free kids' dental checks; Gippsland Water had a a portable water fountain, free water bottles and information about bill assistance; NDIS had a stall with information about services it provides; Berry Street shared information on courses and up-skilling; Enjoy Church's Re.Store food distribution program had a stall with clothes from its' op shop; and Anglicare had information about services available to community members.

Mr McNamara said it was encouraging to see "that total buy-in of the community fixing a problem in their own community".

"The amount of local producers that have donated the produce to this event, the other organisations that are coming to help, is such a testament to the fact that we want to help each other," he said. 

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