Supplying Geelong Charities with food
What has always been known in the Kiwanis Club of Geelong as ‘The SPC Food Run’ began 29 years ago in an effort to supply emergency food supplies to local charity groups when the Geelong community was adversely affected by the collapse of a local bank and mortgage provider. The Farrow group of companies collapsed with debts in excess of $2 billion. The collapse known generally as the ‘Pyramid Collapse’ took with it not only the Pyramid Building society but also the Geelong Building Society, and also Countrywide Building Society, all based in Geelong.
During that time it was normal for members when attending club meetings to bring along a food item, maybe a can of beans or some pasta and place it in a cardboard box when entering the meeting room. Subsequently a member would deliver the contents of the box to one of the many charity agencies that were supporting the community in that time of need.
It was during the time before late night shopping that when arriving with the donation at a particular agency the club member found the charity volunteer rushing to get to the shops before closing time. The reason given was that they had plenty of beans and pasta but no baby food. It appeared that one of the less likely items to be donated was baby food and yet it was one of the most requested especially from single mothers.
The club member took this problem back to the next Kiwanis meeting and it was agreed that the club would buy a large quantity of baby food to share among several agencies. Members began ringing food wholesalers and direct to makers of baby food such as Nestlé and Heinz. The purchase and delivery was soon made to the delight of the charities.
From that small beginning the Kiwanis Club of Geelong discovered the need was greater than first imagined and the project became an annual action to support several charities with large quantities of food.
Now with a range of foodstuffs being considered and wanting both the best deal possible from the club’s hard earned funds and a preference among club members to use a local supplier discussions were begun with the Shepparton Preserving Company (SPC). The company located in Shepparton in northern Victoria specialises in processing and canning locally grown fruit and vegetables.
During the early years a member often drove to Shepparton and they were escorted around the warehouses’ during the ordering process or the order was placed by long phone calls. The pick-up consisted of a team of members driving their own cars with trailers. Special arrangements were made by SPC to have warehouse staff and fork lift drivers to enable collection to be on a Saturday. It was also often the case that the members helped in moving the cartons out to the car park to be checked in and loaded to the trailers.
An early experience was disastrous for one member when his vehicles transmission burned out on the journey back to Geelong. Having a member’s personal vehicle subject to damage was soon addressed when Ford Motor Company Geelong plant management provided one of their own fleet of trucks to do the pick-up. The company provided a truck together with fuel to travel to Shepparton and return (some 520 kilometres). Each year a Ford company driver volunteered a day of their time in generous support of the project.
The club was fortunate at that time to have a member with a large factory where space was made available to receive and sort the food on its return to Geelong. Members of the club sorted everything with the agencies arranging their own collection. That often involved their own volunteers also using their personal vehicles.
In those early days the welfare agencies involved were the Salvation Army, Uniting Church Concern, St Mary’s Pantry and St Vincent De Paul. These charities having intimate knowledge of the needs and individual circumstances of those seeking assistance were encouraged to purchase additional stock from their own funds to benefit from the generous discount and no cost delivery. This enabled them to buy product much cheaper than normal.
The project has continued to operate for some thirty years to supply food to members of the local population who are going through hard times as a result of the downturn in the economy made more severe in 2020 / 21 due to the Covid 19 pandemic causing lockdowns, business closures and job losses.
The Kiwanis Geelong annual food relief program currently involves six agencies, Geelong Food Relief, St Vincent De Paul, St’ Mary’s Pantry, Christ Church Breakfast Program, Uniting Care – Barwon Region and One Care Geelong. Kiwanis contacts the charities each year and provides them with order forms for food and other provisions which are available. The food is now delivered to the warehouse of Geelong Food Relief for sorting and distribution arranged by Kiwanis Geelong. With the closing of the Ford plant other trucking companies have provided discounted transport including Hick’s Transport from Shepparton who are used at the present time.
Every Kiwanis Geelong Member has been involved over the years either in the actual program administration and support or assisting with the significant fundraising required to run the project on a yearly basis. Several news reports have made it into the local Geelong Advertiser newspaper on the project. The financial cost to the Geelong Club over the 29 years of the project has been estimated between $250,000 and $300,000 Australian dollars, with additional “goods in kind” support in excess of another $60,000.
Proving the value of the program it is now run with a dollar for dollar contribution from each of the beneficiaries. In 2020 the Kiwanis Club of Geelong provided $16813.25 making the total cost of food purchased in that year at $37242.00 having a total retail value of $55,000.00.
In 2021 the Kiwanis Australia District submitted the Kiwanis Geelong SPC Food Run as its nominee to the ASPAC (Asia Pacific) Best Signature Project Competition held as part of the annual ASPAC Convention and it was duly declared the winner.