Phil Sheather has spent two decades feeding the city’s hungry mouths, but never has he seen the need become so desperate as it has over the past eight months.
Mr Sheather volunteers with the Uniting Church Food Mission which is open three days a week.
Before noon, he has already seen 70 people come through. Last year that was sitting at about 60.
With 5.5 per cent of residents now facing unemployment, and an estimated 107 people sleeping rough each night in Wagga, it is any wonder Mr Sheather has seen the upward trend.
It’s much harder now, and we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. Each week you see the difference, it’s gradually getting worse.Phil Sheather
“The trend is certainly there, and it would have started around Christmas.
“Usually winter brings more in, but it’s not been that noticeable this year since we started seeing an increase in summer.”
As the temperature decreases, the community’s financial pressures increase. That is according to research conducted by FoodBank.
Across the Riverina each months, 8,470 meals are given out and it’s expected that another 25,561 are still needed to meet the needs.
A majority of these households include school aged children.
FoodBank’s Rumbling Tummies Report found that one in three families will be forced to go hungry for at least one meal, once a month.
In the past 12 months, it found as many as one in five children across the nation experienced hunger due to food insecurity.
In the week gone by, Mr Sheather estimates 25 families with school aged children have come through the food mission.
“It’s definitely more than this time last year. We would have been seeing just eight to 10 families a couple years ago.”
“We tend to see people coming in during winter because we also have a drop-in centre next door where you can come by, get a cup of tea, or coffee, read the newspaper and stay under the heater,” Mr Sheather said.
It’s across the board, there are more single people, families, elderly, everyone is affected and I’d say the major contributing factor is lack of finance.Phil Sheather
Mr Sheather’s mission takes delivery of one FoodBank donation per week.
Major grocery stores, schools and home gardeners around the city also provide a lot of produce, bread, and milk.
But an increase in foot traffic means the food resources are depleted much quicker than in previous years.
Should the donations dry up, the city’s disadvantaged people would be left struggling.
“Only today a young fella walked in with four huge bags of tin foods to donate,” Mr Sheather said.
“It’s terrific, without them we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”