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Port and Foodbank lend a hand in Murray Bridge

THE PORT ADELAIDE FOOTBALL CLUB has teamed up with Foodbank to get food to the people who need it most and to spread some cheer in the rural city of Murray Bridge.

The Murray Bridge area is home to more than 21,000 people and is dealing with issues of high rates of poverty, homelessness and unemployment.

The latest data suggests an unemployment rate around 8%, well above the national rate of 5.6%.

The community has had a rough start to the year with a large fire causing significant damage to the Thomas Foods International abattoir, which was a major local employer.

The fire prompted the Port Adelaide Football Club’s General Manager of Power Community Ltd, Ross Wait, to make contact with the company to offer support.

He then organised to have the club assist its partner Foodbank with a pop-up food distribution operation.

“We’ve been a strong supporter of Foodbank over the years and part of the club’s values is to make the community proud, so we had 25 staff up in Murray Bridge giving back to the community and supporting Foodbank’s initiative to put on a variety of food and shopping options for the community to access during a difficult time,” he said.

“There’s a lot of community hardship at the moment because of what happened with the devastating fire at Thomas Foods so we as a club identified that with Foodbank we could bring the food trucks up here to provide the community with a bit of support and the people have just been taken aback by the help from Foodbank and the football club.”

The cause was particularly close to the heart of Port Adelaide forward Chad Wingard who is from Murray Bridge and still has family there.

“I’ve seen the families that I’ve grown up with and lots of friends and family here affected by the fire at the meat works,” he said.

“It’s very sad to see and having that link between Port Adelaide and Foodbank, obviously a great supporter of ours, we thought we could help those families who’ve been affected and of course I was going to put my hand up to help out.”

Wingard was a popular attraction among the 25 Port Adelaide Football Club staff who helped the Foodbank staff and volunteers to unload two trucks of produce and set up the pop-up centre at the Murray Bridge Racing Club.

A free sausage sizzle and drinks were provided as well as fresh produce, tinned goods, sweet snacks, pastas and rices, drinks and bathroom products.

People could also get some instructions on healthy eating as well as hand-knitted clothes and soft toys for the children.

Wingard was part of the team which handed out the food products, but he was also seen to hand deliver goods to people’s cars along with other football club staff.

“The (community members) are very positive and very thankful for the opportunity to pick up some food to help feed their kids,” he said.

“The community is really enriched by it, given it’s a pretty sad time, but to have the comfort of these people coming to help is obviously very rewarding.”

Foodbank CEO Greg Pattinson said around 370 families and individuals attended and were grateful for the help.

He said Foodbank was equally grateful for the support from Port Adelaide.

“We’re very fortunate to have the support of the Port Adelaide Football Club and its staff who have been lending their muscle,” Mr Pattinson said.

“In SA there are 102,000 people per month who are seeking food relief – now that’s two Adelaide Ovals full if we put it in the context of a football game – and a third of those are kids.

“We know that in country areas the percentage goes higher.

“One in five Australian kids are food insecure at some stage during a year, in South Australia that number is one in four and in regional areas, with indigenous kids in particular, you’re talking 60% so we think this is not a third-world country and we should be better as a society.”

Mr Pattinson said Foodbank carried out pop-up events every few months in areas where permanent Foodbanks weren’t in existence, using food donated by businesses or items still edible but destined for the waste.

He said in Murray Bridge the demand for food was particularly high.

“We know that there was an impact because of the Thomas Foods fire, and they have done a very good job of finding alternative employment for a number of the families affected but we know that there are a number of other smaller businesses who have been impacted, as well as the longer-term unemployment issues up here,” he said.

“A lot of the locals are asking when we are going to be here permanently and we want to work with the State Government to try and do that.”

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