Marnie Baker. Photo: Andrew Perryman.

BENDIGO residents have been urged to donate, host an event or buy a bowl of soup to support Bendigo Foodshare as part of its annual Bendigo Bank Million Meals in May campaign.

The campaign incorporates the inaugural Soupfest – a grassroots solution to food poverty, empowering the community to help local people struggling to put meals on the table by hosting a soup themed fundraising event during May.

Underemployment is one of the main drivers of food poverty in the Greater Bendigo region, and is behind a rise in demand for food relief.

The 2018 VCOSS Poverty Maps reveals 25,600 people are living in poverty in Bendigo and the seven surrounding shires serviced by Bendigo Foodshare.

City of Greater Bendigo’s Food Security Report showed one in 11 people can’t afford to give their family healthy meals each week, and every school in the region has children who have insufficient food to eat.

Bendigo Foodshare chair, Cathie Steele, said urgent community action is required this winter to help fund operations to provide food relief for almost 9000 people living in the Greater Bendigo region.

She said occasional food poverty was an invisible epidemic, but it was one that could be eased with a whole of community approach.

“We’re seeing food distress affecting an increasing number of residents, including people who are unable to afford healthy food as a result of temporary financial stress or despite working, owning a business or operating a farm,” said Ms Steele.

“Through Bendigo Bank Million Meals in May and Soupfest the community can take direct action by gathering their friends for a fundraising event in the office, in the local community or at school, or by going out for a delicious bowl of soup at one of our Souper Sites.”

Bendigo Foodshare hopes to recruit more than 30 hospitality businesses as Soupfest Souper Sites to host and raise more than $65,000 from community fundraising events and donations through during May.

Money raised will go towards collecting and redistributing food that would otherwise go to waste.

Bendigo Bank recognises the power of community contribution and has come on board as Bendigo Bank Million Meals in May’s partner, volunteering its branches as collection points for community donations.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank managing director Marnie Baker said the organisation was proud to support such an important community initiative.

“A timely response and a focused community effort to support the needs of people experiencing food poverty is required to make a real difference, and these are the attributes that underpin our community partnership with Bendigo Foodshare,” said Ms Baker.

Bendigo residents unable to host an event can still get involved by finding a Soupfest Souper site poster identifying participating venues; looking for public events in your area, donating directly to Bendigo Foodshare or by making a donation at the nearest Bendigo Bank branch.

To register a business as a Souper Site or host a Million Meals in May community fundraiser visit www.bendigofoodshare.org.au to download your free host kit.