Prime Minister Scott Morrison has personally intervened to stop funding being cut to the national charity Foodbank, which helps provide around 67 million meals annually to Australians in need.
The change of heart comes following widespread condemnation of the decision announced by Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher yesterday, which gave Foodbank just six weeks warning that its annual funding was to be cut from $750,000 to $427,000 in 2019, with some of the funds being reallocated to other food relief charities, including SecondBite and OzHarvest.
The National Farmers’ Federation was among those who criticised the decision, saying they were “baffled and disappointed”, especially when “farmers are important contributors to Foodbank, and 40% of people assisted are in the bush”.
Foodbank provides food relief for 710,000 people a month, with a quarter of those people children, and demand for the service has increased 5% in the last 12 months. Around four million Australians have experienced food insecurity in the past 12 months.
While Fletcher initially defended the decision as part of a competitive tender process, the Prime Minister promised to review the decision and this morning announced a $1.5 million increase in the food relief budget over the next 4.5 years to restore Foodbank’s grant to $750,000 annually.
SecondBite and OzHarvest will keep the additional funding they have been allocated. The initial allocation was for $4.5 million for the three charity groups to distribute emergency food relief.
[1/3] Yesterday I promised to review the Foodbank decision. I have listened and decided to increase the Food Relief budget by $1.5 million over the next 4.5 years and have asked the Minister to place more focus on relief in drought affected areas.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) November 12, 2018
Morrison said it was “important that food relief in drought areas is delivered in a way that does not undercut local businesses” and the minister “will work with providers to get the right plan in place”.
Yesterday, Foodbank CEO Brianna Casey said she was “dumbfounded” by the decision, which put $8 million worth of distribution to 2,600 charities nationally at risk. Today she welcomed Morrison’s intervention to restore the funding as a “massive relief”.
The change of heart was also welcomed by the National Farmers federation, which thanksed Prime Minister Morrison “for listening and acting swiftly”.
“A great outcome for regional communities doing it tough in drought, your support is truly appreciated!” the NFF said.
Labor leader Bill Shorten called it a “great outcome for people power and common sense”, calling the original decision a “mean and foolish cut”.
Organisations such as Foodbank, OzHarvest and Secondbite assist in redistributing surplus food from retailers, restaurants, farmers and other food producers, redistributing it for free to charities working on the frontline to ensure people have enough to eat.