Queues, but no questions at SecondBite centre
EVERY Wednesday morning about 100 people of all ages gather outside Kincumber Neighbourhood Centre, waiting for the doors to open for SecondBite.
It's a frightening reminder of how many people on the Coast are living on the economic brink.
SecondBite is an Australia-wide program providing access to fresh, nutritious food for people in need by redistributing foodstuffs that would otherwise be discarded - a point the people at the neighbourhood centre emphasise, letting recipients know they are doing their bit to stop waste.
At Kincumber the program only started about eight months ago, with food donated by Coles and Fresca Fruit Kincumber, and purchased from the FoodBank.
Program co-ordinator Leanne Clarke said the Neighbourhood Centre had seen the need, but having provided the service, found the demand was even greater.
People begin arriving from 9am, with food distributed in the auditorium from 10.30am and often all-but gone within 15 minutes, despite limits of two bags per person.
"We often get people pull us aside and say, 'We're so grateful for what you're doing,'" Leanne said.
"We have all ages involved, both as volunteers and recipients - it's a wonderful dynamic."
That includes everyone from retirees to school students volunteering, some even coming during their school holidays, and everyone from babes in arms to pensioners seeking help.
"For people on NewStart or a pension, all it takes is one electricity bill, a car breaks down or they have medical bills and it puts them in financial crisis," Leanne said.
"There are a lot of carers - people looking after parents or disabled family - who are doing it really tough.
"We also have a lot of working poor - people on casual jobs not making enough to get by, but it's so hard to get a full-time job on the Coast; and a lot of single parents.
"Given the cost of living pressures, they just need help, and it doesn't matter who they are or where they're from, they are welcome through our doors."
Centre manager Colette Baron also made the point that while some people did want to talk about their situation, others didn't, and there was no means test or criteria to use the service.
All they ask is that if you can afford a gold coin donation, you give it, to keep the service going.
Orange Sky Laundry attends at the same time, so people can get their washing done, or nick in for a shower.
The centre can also help with electricity funding through the government's EAPA program.
Colette said another issue on the Coast was the amount of unreported homelessness, a situation which she has seen worsening over the past 15 years.
The number of people having to wait for months for funding either through job networks, the NDIS or pensions, or being forced to try and find work they were physically incapable of doing was also a concern.
"I think the systems are failing because policy is not made from a humanitarian point of view, speaking to people on the coalface, and there needs to be more compassion and empathy for individual experiences," she said.
To find out more about SecondBite or any of Kincumber Neighbourhood Centre's other services, call 4363 1044 or go to www.kincumbernc.com.au, or to find a SecondBite service nearer to you, call 1800 263 283 or go to www.secondbite.org.