When the drought really tightened its grip on farmers more than a year ago, Rhonda had no idea what an impact the flyer she found about Georgie’s Pantry in Parkes would have on her.
“It was getting pretty tough, and I saw the flyer about free groceries for farmers. I was one of the first to rock up and became one of the regulars.”
Rhonda said she soon realised it was not just about the groceries, but also the social aspect. “Everyone there is just so friendly and understanding. I look forward to going there every week and catch up on the latest news.”
She said the pantry had helped so many farmers from all over the Central West, and enabled them to pay other bills not having the expense of groceries. “It is also fantastic to know that all that food won’t go to waste.”
As a founding member of Food Rescue Central West, Georgie’s Pantry is part of a network of nine agencies reaching over 2,000 clients in an area covering 63,000km2.
The project supports soup kitchens, hands out emergency food hampers and runs community pantries and gets support from food relief charities, such as Second Bite. It has been operational since March after they secured a grant from the Environmental Trust to buy a refrigerated truck and refrigerated storage in Bathurst, as well as fridges for Georgie’s.
“It was a significant achievement to get it off the ground, let alone run it,” said founding member Elliot Redwin from Bathurst.
He deliveries 10t of food to all the member agencies once a week. “From Parkes they go out even as far as Walgett and Lightning Ridge.” He said Georgie’s Pantry was hands down the most successful in accessing the farming community. “We can all learn a lot from what has happened at Georgie’s, and they are happy to share their knowledge.”
He said the Parkes Shire Council had also been fantastic in its support of the project. “The next step for Parkes would be to get their own refrigerated truck,” said Elliott.
Derrick and Sandra Milling help manager Natalie Quince to run the pantry in Parkes every week. “It is a wonderful endeavour,” said Derrick.
“The rain might have come, but we will continue to help the farmers until there’s been a harvest. It has been fantastic to be able to help up to 60 farming families per week from young couples up to farmers over 80 years old.”
For Rhonda and her husband the pantry helped to keep them going. “It would have been much harder to survive without their help.” Rhonda added that while it looks nice and green at the moment, it would still take a very long time to recover as farmers won’t have any cash flow until the first harvest.
“I cannot speak highly enough of Georgie’s Pantry and what they have done for us,” said Rhonda.
By Maggi Barnard