Eat and Greet food hub: Soaring power bills behind surge in demand for food relief, says charity

CHARITIES are struggling to meet surging demand as hundreds of Manningham families seek emergency food relief services — and soaring power bills are thought to be the cause.

The Eat and Greet food hub in Lower Templestowe has been bombarded with 200 requests for meals over the past fortnight.

Eat and Greet manager Chris Mountford said demand had quadrupled — they were previously preparing about 100 meals a month.

Ms Mountford said unemployment and school costs contributed to people doing it tough, but said the common underlying reason was rising gas and electricity bills.

media_cameraSandra Thurtell and Chris Mountford at the Eat and Greet Food Hub. Picture: David Crosling

“We’ve had cold weather and this is the month where electricity bills come in,” she said.

Ms Mountford said single people, the elderly, families and unemployed people were all doing it tough — no one was spared.

Ms Mountford said the service now needed more help with food donations.

Ian Clark, Doncare’s crisis support and family services manager, also blamed soaring utility and rent costs for putting the pinch on people, particularly in August.

He said one client’s winter power bill had more than doubled since last year.

A report from RMIT and Victorian Council of Social Services, released last week, found people were relying on food vouchers to save money for utility bills.

Meanwhile a State Government report into rental affordability for the first quarter of this year showed Manningham’s one-bedroom flats were the most expensive to rent in Melbourne’s east, with a median price tag of $350 a week.

The $430 cost of a two-bedroom flat was second only to Boroondara, with two- and three-bedroom houses in Manningham not much better off at $450 a week.

Supply is a key issue with Manningham one of several areas with only about 2 per cent of Melbourne’s affordable rental dwellings.

The Victorian Council of Social Service said average rents had grown by 110 per cent since 2001, while wages had increased by only 75 per cent.

Donations of dry food, pasta, rice, tinned food or excess veggies can be made to Eat and Greet at the Ajani Centre in Thompsons Rd, Lower Templestowe.

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