Community Resilience

Foodbank SA & NT Provides Food to Remote Australian Communities

A daunting 1,880 miles separate the capitals of Northern Territory and South Australia—but Foodbank SA & NT is doing whatever it takes to ensure people from north to south have access to good quality food.

About 14 percent of households in South Australia and Northern Territory struggled to put food on the table in 2022. Foodbank SA & NT reaches people who need food assistance through 700 community agencies and 350 schools.

In many cases, families facing hunger live in remote, hard-to-reach communities where healthy food is difficult to access. For example, in Kaltjiti (formerly Fregon) about 52 percent of residents are unemployed, and the median weekly income falls below the poverty line, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. There are not many affordable options for fresh food.

Community leaders invited Foodbank SA & NT to provide services there years ago. But Kaltjiti is one of the six communities that comprise the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands—a 16-hour drive north from Foodbank SA & NT’s main warehouse in Adelaide and nearly a six-hour drive south from their nearest distribution warehouse in Alice Springs. To solve this logistics puzzle, the food bank partners with national freight companies to deliver food directly from Adelaide to Kaltjiti and other remote communities.

Once there, some of that food is distributed to Fregon Anangu School. About 20 years ago, Foodbank SA & NT started a school breakfast program in the communities of the APY Lands, and it’s still going strong in eight different schools.

“We send one large truckload or large delivery of shelf stable food there once each semester,” said Greg Pattinson, CEO of Foodbank SA & NT. “Breakfast cereal, long-life milk, tinned fruit. And every week, we send fresh fruit to the schools. It’s something we’ve done for a lot of years, and I’m still very proud to do it.”

Nearly 90 percent of people living in Kaltjiti identify as First Nations peoples, so Foodbank SA & NT provides food that is particular to their needs and preferences. For example, kangaroo meat is a traditional source of protein and iron for some Aboriginal communities—the latter important because First Nations peoples see higher rates of anemia.

Not all of the communities Foodbank SA & NT reach are remote, of course—but the food bank is equally diligent about appropriately serving areas with higher population densities.

“We started setting up our own little supermarkets, what we call food hubs in all of our sites,” said Pattinson. “Over 70 percent of our food actually goes through the food hubs. What that provides is a venue where all the charities can actually send people to shop in a very dignified environment. They look and feel like a supermarket. The major supermarkets here in Australia actually donate the checkout counters, the fixtures and fittings, the supermarket shelving.”

Based on demographic information, Foodbank SA & NT provides regionally specific foods.

“For the food hubs in Adelaide, where we have a large number of refugees from Asian or African countries, we focus on getting things like lentils and legumes and those sorts of products,” said Pattinson. “Whereas in Alice Springs, where 90 percent of the clientele would be First Nations people, we have things like kangaroo tails. That’s the way we tend to work. And from each of those regional sites, we’re able to then distribute out to quite remote communities.”

The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) has supported Foodbank SA & NT through Foodbank Australia. Through a 2019 grant, GFN provided Foodbank SA & NT with a Pantech truck for food deliveries to remote communities around the Darwin area. Another grant helped build a freezer in South Australia.

“[The new freezer] means we can have far greater quantities of red meat, protein, meals, fish, all the sort of things you need. And because some of these communities are so far away, it meant we could send a single load a refrigerated truck instead of just send small quantities as required.”

In the near future, Pattinson says Foodbank SA & NT plans to open more food hubs while also reaching even more hard-to-reach communities.

“I think the challenge now is how to get more food out to some of these remote locations, those remote towns where those people don’t necessarily have transport to get into town to get the food from us,” he said. “And that’s the next stage of our progress there.”

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