The Ipswich community showed its generous spirit on Saturday, quickly answering a call to help families in need.
On Saturday, 4 April, an early morning post on Facebook popped up, urgently seeking seven volunteers to help the team at Ipswich Foodbarn as they gave away about 80 pallets of fresh fruit and vegetables to local families in need.
The Ipswich community heeded the call, and in less than an hour, more than 300 people had called to offer their help, with locals clearly keen to do their bit to help out during these extraordinary and unprecedented times.
The Ipswich Foodbarn is a non-profit organisation that assists local families by providing them with low-cost food hampers and access to free produce when available.
They also provide hot meals and provisions to the homeless community as well as breakfast supplies, including fresh fruit, to local schools. They currently provide essential support to 22,000 families, producing as many as 300 hampers a day.
Up to 65 Work for the Dole participants help out at the Ipswich Foodbarn each week, putting together low-cost food hampers for community members who are experiencing financial difficulties.
The organisation also offers regular fresh produce giveaways which are made possible thanks to generous donations from Food Bank Queensland, Second Bite, OZ Harvest and members of the community.
Ipswich Foodbarn’s operations manager, Qim Kauwhata, said that when fresh produce is available, she puts a post on Facebook page to alert families in need and to invite them to come along and fill a box.
On Saturday, four car parking bays were set up at the front of the Foodbarn in Darling Street, with boxes of apples, kiwi fruit, sweet potatoes, onions and zucchinis on offer.
Ever mindful of the other businesses operating on Darling Street, Qim said she doesn’t open for collections until these are all closed for the day to minimise issues with customer parking and traffic jams.
Once the Facebook announcement goes live, cars can begin to arrive for the collection, with drivers advised to wait on the side of Darling Street. Only four cars at a time can enter the onsite bays where recipients then collect what they need before being directed safely off site by volunteers.
This is to ensure that a safe distance is maintained at all times. Ms Kauwhata and the team make sure that each bay offers the same produce items so that recipients can remain in their allocated bay, and keep their distance from volunteers and each other.
Walk-ins are welcome but are asked to wait off-site, following the 1.5 metre distancing rules, until all cars have left. They are then invited to come in and collect their produce.
Highlighting the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Ms Kauwhata and her team said that needing external volunteers just to help keep Darling Street clear was something they’d never had to face before.
She said that as a way of reducing the number of vehicles, recipients are encouraged to collect for multiple families if possible.
“Many will pick up for other family members, community or church groups,” she said.
Strict health and safety measures are in place to protect recipients and volunteers from getting too close.
Volunteers are directed to only help load boxes into car boots, avoiding loading into cars that have people in them and avoiding shaking hands. Volunteer slots are limited to ensure the maximum possible distance between each person is maintained.
Ipswich City Council is currently looking at how it can assist Ipswich Foodbarn with resources to allow for food deliveries to customers in need, particularly those located outside the city and elderly customers who may not be able to attend the Foodbarn.
So far, council has arranged to for Ipswich Foodbarn to utilise the Ipswich Civic Centre’s truck – usually used to transport staging, sound equipment and props – to allow the local food bank to deliver to its customers.
Council has also allocated some of its own staff to assist with Foodbarn’s transition to a delivery service, with the goal of helping as many isolated and vulnerable members of the community as possible, and have redeployed staff from the Ipswich Civic Centre to do deliveries.
If you would like to volunteer to help out the Ipswich Foodbarn team, follow their Facebook page to keep up-to-date with calls for assistance at https://www.facebook.com/IpswichFoodbarn/