On Wednesday the 28th March, the Sydney office participated in the “Taste of Harmony”, an annual event celebrating food and cultural diversity in the workplace. This year we hosted a “Pot Luck Lunch” and the brief was that everyone brought a dish to celebrate a particular culture or country. It could have been a dish from your favourite holiday destination, something your grandmother used to make or even your favourite quintessential Aussie dish you serve up at a summer BBQ. Australia is a melting pot of different nationalities so we had lots of participants and plenty of variety which made for a festive lunch, full bellies and a great way to spend some time together as a team.
As part of the event, we also held a Food Drive and asked people to bring non-perishable food such as canned vegetables, long life milk, pasta, breakfast cereals and rice for us to donate to Food Bank, Australia’s largest food relief charity. Food Bank operates in each state and territory and acts as a pantry to 2,500 other charities and 1,500 schools. The donated food is distributed to adults and children in need as prepared meals, food hampers and emergency parcels. Initiatives such as “The School Breakfast Program” provide a healthy breakfast before school in some of the most disadvantaged areas in NSW and the ACT so all children have the chance to start their day in a positive and healthy way.
With the abundance of crops, the large amount of food that we export and the growing obesity epidemic, at face value Australia in 2017 does not look like a country where people go hungry. Food Bank’s Hunger Report states in 2016, 1 in 6 Australians experienced food insecurity and for over a quarter of these people, this is a regular occurrence where they don’t know how they are going to put their next meal on the table. These tragic statistics don’t just affect the obvious people such as the homeless or unemployed. It is the elderly who are lonely with no one to turn to for help, single parents escaping domestic violence situations or dealing with the death of a spouse, grandparents caring for children whose parents suffer from substance abuse and children sent to school with nothing to eat when the bell rings for lunch.
Every day, I feel lucky that I not only have access to a hot nutritious meal, but I also have the choice of what I want to eat. For me, food is not just satisfying a basic need, it’s a social glue bringing together family and friends, a point of conversation, a chance to make something exotic, a chance to splurge and something that I sometimes have in excess. There are many people who don’t have that luxury, and as winter in Australia approaches, they will go to bed cold with an empty stomach, or unable to feed their children who are saying that they are hungry.
We collected 33 cans of vegetables, 8 cans of soup, 8 packets of pasta, rice and noodles, 9 sauces, gravies and spices, 4 cans of tuna, breakfast cereal, 2 cartons of long life milk and 1 jar of marmalade that was picked up by Food Bank this week. I am proud to say that we have contributed to helping feed those in need. I hope that in a small way we can alleviate some of the feelings of stress, shame and vulnerability that people may experience from food insecurity, when food should be a basic human right.