By Colin MacGillivray

Mitchell Shire charities believe rising cost-of-living pressures are behind a surge in the number of people seeking aid across the region.

Skyrocketing petrol costs, rising interest rates and a shortage of vegetables forcing up grocery prices have combined to put additional strain on families already under financial pressure.

The Broadford and Wallan branches of charity Love In Action both reported increased numbers of people seeking assistance in the past two months.

Both branches provide support for homeless and financially struggling people, largely through emergency pantries providing food and other essential items.

Love In Action Wallan president Sarah Brewer said there had been ‘a massive spike’ in requests for aid in recent weeks.

“We’re seeing families who have never had to ask for help put their hand up, and quite a lot of them,” she said.

“For some of our families, when petrol prices first hit it was a choice of whether they could afford to drive their kids to school or cook dinner that night. For a lot of them, $12 for a lettuce means they can’t afford to eat healthy.

“A lot of them aren’t homeowners but, in saying that, with the rate rises we’re bracing ourselves to get hit even more from families who have probably never asked us before.”

Love In Action Broadford founder Barb Radford said she had four new requests for help in a three-day span last week.

“We’ve had new people contact us before, but not in such a short time. I think this is what’s going to happen more and more,” she said.

“It’s the typical story that we were hearing anyway, but it’s gotten a lot worse now.”

Ms Radford last week contacted the Broadford group’s 1500 followers on Facebook, asking for donations of food, toiletry and cleaning products, and money.

She said monetary donations allowed Love In Action to buy the most in-demand items for families in a timely manner.

Alongside donations of non-perishable foods, Ms Radford said she did fortnightly shops for fruit, vegetables and meat.

“I make [them] a priority, because that’s what’s most expensive for people anyway,” she said.

“We’ll keep managing with the food and money we get from locals. There are a few locals who give us money every week, and we don’t buy pantry stuff with that, we mainly buy fruit, veggies and meat.”

People can donate items to Love In Action Broadford at the following drop-off points: Broadford IGA, Bendigo Bank Kilmore, Bendigo Bank Broadford, Broadford Living and Learning Centre, Broadford Pharmacy, the Tallarook General Store, and the Anglican churches in Broadford and Kilmore.

People can donate money to Love In Action Broadford’s bank account via USB 633 000 and account number 161132725, or contact the group directly by calling 0473 845 808 or searching for Love In Action Broadford Community Group on Facebook.

Love In Action Wallan’s drop-off points are at: Vento Café Wallan, Coles Wallan and LJ Hooker Wallan.

People can donate to Love In Action Wallan’s bank account using USB 633 000 and account number 160529418. People can get in touch with the group by searching for Love In Action Wallan Community Group on Facebook or calling Ms Brewer on 0419 838 966.

Ms Brewer said it was the generosity of Mitchell Shire residents that gave Love In Action what it needed to support less fortunate people.

“We’re so lucky to have a phenomenal community where, even though there are people out there suffering, there are incredibly generous local residents who fill our trolleys weekly for us. They do it quietly and with no fuss,” she said.