Foodbank WA started with a simple idea: to fill empty plates and fight for change.
Foodbank’s first warehouse opened in 1994, distributing over 54 tonnes of food in just three months. Now, the not-for-profit organisation feeds hundreds of thousands of people in need across WA every year. In 2023, Foodbank WA provided 9.2 million meals across the state, the equivalent of 5.1 million tonnes.
“With every change, every brand evolution, our goal has always been the same – to get food to the people who need it the most,” she said. "Now, we’re providing 9.2 million meals to Western Australian households in need. It’s a privilege to do what we do, and we will continue to evolve to ensure we can feed change for years to come."
With rising cost of living, empty plates are becoming more commonplace in more households across a range of demographics in Australia. Hiked grocery prices and rental and mortgage pressures are impacting families and individuals on tight budgets in both regional and metropolitan areas, including workers, the elderly, young students, and parents with hungry mouths to feed.
More people are being pushed below the poverty line who previously weren't as concerned about paying bills and food costs. “We’ve seen faces etched with worry, with the rising price of milk, the school lunchbox feeling lighter, and the knot in stomachs. That’s why we're here,” Ms O’Hara said.
"With the cost of living squeezing families, it feels more important than ever to be here to make sure everyone has enough food to eat. Australia produces enough food to feed our population three times over," she added.
Foodbank WA expanded to regional WA - Albany in 2000, Kalgoorlie and Peel in 2001, and with two new regional branches opening in Geraldton in 2003 and Bunbury in 2004 - to tackle hunger and meet the growing demand for food relief across the vast state.
With 388,000 households facing food insecurity in Western Australia, outlined in the Foodbank Hunger Report 2023, the numbers go beyond the statistics. “It’s the faces behind them that drive us. The single dad juggling work and feeding his kids. The elderly couple struggling to make ends meet. We're not just about handing out groceries, we're about empowering people to navigate life’s challenges,” Ms O’Hara said.
Foodbank’s passion for nutrition education continues, launching nom! in 2023, a rebrand of FOODcents launched in 1995, empowering people to make healthy choices to help break the poverty cycle.
Tackling the cycle of children going to school with empty lunchboxes and without breakfast, Foodbank launched its School Breakfast Program in 2001, which now feeds thousands of children at more than 500 schools across the state.
“We’re not just a charity, we’re an ecosystem. Farmers donate surplus, manufacturers lend warehouse space, volunteers are our lifeblood. It's not just about us, it's about a collective commitment. That's why we partner with hundreds of charities, businesses, and government agencies," Ms O'Hara said.
"It's a web of support, spun with shared purpose to feed change. This network allows us to pivot, grow and expand as people need us to.”
“In 2024, we continue to expand to meet the ever-increasing demand as we mark 30 years of food relief,” Ms O’Hara said.