Food relief at the school gate

One of the food markets at Chandler Park Primary School. Picture: SUPPLIED

by Sahar Foladi

Food relief ‘markets’ have rolled out at schools in Greater Dandenong as part of the partnership between Chobani and Foodbank Victoria.

The program ‘Food for Good Markets,’ is a trial roll-out in the municipality allowing families to select fresh fruit, vegetables pantry essentials and Chobani yoghurt in their school yards.

It was targeting the many ‘food insecure’ families who didn’t feel comfortable seeking support from traditional foodbank relief services, according to Foodbank Victoria research.

General Manager at Chobani, Tim Browne said the pilot program was more meaningful because it was serving in Chobani’s local community.

“As a food and drinks manufacturer we have a responsibility to make sure everyone has access to delicious and nutritious food.

“We are aways looking for new and innovative ways to evolve our support for Foodbank to help make a real impact.”

The soaring cost of living sees Foodbank feed 57,000 Victorians daily, including families in Dandenong who otherwise have little to no access to healthy food options.

Assistant principal at Keysborough’s Chandler Park Primary School, Bianca Kotsonas said the program is a fantastic opportunity for the community.

“Not only did our families have access to healthy and quality ingredients, but the market brought our community together and bonded them over healthy food.”

Springvale Rise Primary School community health leader Julie Raciti said the “convenient” market helped many families in need didn’t know where to otherwise seek food relief.

“They trust our school, they know where to go and it’s a wonderful way to connect.”

The trial of five markets, including at Springvale Rise Primary School and Noble Park English Language School, is expected to end in November 2023.

“We know that one of the biggest challenges for families doing it tough is overcoming the shame they feel accessing food relief,” Foodbank chief excecutive Dave McNamara said.

“With the markets being hosted in the school yard, a setting that is familiar and trusted, we hope that families feel more comfortable accessing the help they need.”

In addition to the Foodbank, Chobani also provide a weekly donation to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Refugee Resource Hub’s food pantry.

The donation provides food for up to 80 families each week.

“Our employees are really passionate about giving back to our community, in fact, they are the ones jumping in the van each month to deliver the yogurt to schools and rolling up their sleeves at Dandenong South Primary School’s breakfast club during the week,” Mr Browne said.

As reported previously by Star Journal in March 2023, food insecurity and homelessness were two pressing issues in the second-most socio-economically disadvantaged council area in Victoria.

City of Greater Dandenong Council had also established a ‘School Breakfast Resource Kit,’ providing all information for schools to initiate a breakfast program at their school.

Breakfast programs can help ensure children start the day with a healthy and nutritious breakfast, which can benefit them with increased concentration in class, improve in punctuality, social skills and overall health and wellbeing.