Outrage as charity’s funding slashed
A charity that feeds 710,000 Australians every month says the federal government has cut its budget almost in half just weeks before Christmas.
Foodbank says funding for its Key Staples program, which makes sure essential supplies like rice, bread and vegetables get to hungry people, will drop from $750,000 to $427,000.
"We are dumbfounded," Foodbank chief executive Brianna Casey said. "This funding program enables us to leverage an extremely modest investment from the government into more than $8 million of essential foods for distribution to 2600 charities around the country."
The program sees food manufacturers produce food using spare production capacity, while suppliers donate or subsidise ingredients, packaging and delivery.
In February Foodbank asked the government for $10.5 million over three years, which it said would return $316 million to the Australian economy. But the charity says this latest cut - the third since 2014 - may mean the end of the Key Staples program.
"The federal government funding is essential to glue these production arrangements together," Ms Casey said.
Despite growing demand, Ms Casey said government funding had gone down from $1.5 million a year three years ago, to $427,000 a year from January 2019.
On Thursday, Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher announced food charities Foodbank, SecondBite and OzHarvest will share in more than $4.5 million. But the money will be spread over four-and-a-half years, starting in January.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has written to the government asking for the cut to be reversed.
"I am genuinely surprised by this mean and foolish decision," Mr Shorten said.
Foodbank provides 67 million meals a year to charities across the country, as well as more than 1750 schools.
It is Australia's largest food provider to schools for breakfast programs. The Greens say the "callous" and "unnecessary" cuts will have a significant impact on the lives of people in rural and remote Australia.
"Food should never be a discretionary item, but it is becoming more and more the case in Australia and it's meaning that children are going without food," Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said.