By Paul Dobbyn
CHRISTMAS will be cheerier for many, thanks to people like St Vincent de Paul Society truck driver Peter Kennedy.
His weekly return run from Gympie to Brisbane’s Foodbank Queensland at Morningside brings hope on a regular basis to battlers in the region.
This week’s run was just that bit more special for Mr Kennedy as he loaded up with goods to help cash-strapped pensioners, families and others get through the long and often expensive end-of-year holiday stretch.
Now in his 10th year on the Foodbank run, he said it was “a real privilege”.
“It feels really good to be able to help out people who are struggling,” Mr Kennedy said.
“The need has definitely increased in the past 12 months as money gets harder to find.
“The Gympie branch now has more than 2500 customers using the food service.
“Farmers struggling to cope with the prolonged drought in the region have now joined those having to get help.”
Foodbank Queensland manager Ken McMillan said the demand for food from struggling Queenslanders had increased in the past couple of years.
The St Vincent de Paul Society is among more than 300 agencies from all over Queensland using the service, which sees 40,000kg of food pass through its doors every day.
“The demographic is changing,” Mr McMillan said.
“Unfortunately families in crisis are a rapidly growing segment as they try to keep up with rising costs in water, electricity, food, fuel, and health and so on.”
St Vincent de Paul Society state president John Forrest said in the past financial year the society had assisted 296,591 Queenslanders in need.
“For more than 10 years, many of our conferences have been purchasing a range of items from Foodbank through an agreement,” he said.
“For example, around 70 per cent of our items at our Gympie Food Division come through our arrangement with Foodbank.”
Kenmore conference member Phillip Hoy said the society was able to stretch donated money much further thanks to the service.
“The other week, the conference spent $34 at Foodbank and delivered food parcels each valued at $60 to 13 families,” he said.
“This is great arithmetic, allowing the society to help the family in need for four to six weeks until they get back on their feet.”
Mr Hoy also praised some of the big corporations and other businesses for their support.
“Foodbank has negotiated corporate deals with Kelloggs, Coles and Woolworths,” he said.
“St Vincent de Paul get free milk because of the deal Foodbank has with Pauls.
“We get free bread from Goodman Fielder who also devote production to the hungry.
“MacKay Farms supply Foodbank, and thus the poor in Brisbane, with bananas.
“It is a terse time for public finance and tough for business.
“But there are good hearts still beating and this quiet channel will load many a Christmas Day table that would otherwise have been bare.”