More and more people in the Pilbara are asking for food aid


Support service organizations in the Pilbara have seen an increase in the number of people asking for food aid since supply chain issues have seen supermarket shelves empty in recent weeks.

The flood-damaged TransAustralian Railway in South Australia – which normally carries much of the goods supermarkets bring in from the highway – reopened yesterday after 24 days of repairs.

The Salvation Army in Karratha says more and more people are struggling to get food on the table with major supply chain disruptions.

The organization runs a program called Doorways, where people can choose the food they need.

Doorways program social worker Danielle Black said existing clients are coming in more regularly and new people are contacting for the first time.

“There’s also a whole new horde of customers that I’ve seen in the last fortnight precisely because they can’t afford their groceries for the fortnight.”

Danielle Black has seen new customers over the past fortnight who cannot afford groceries.(ABC Pilbara: Samantha Goerling)

Salvation Army corps officer Major Pam Marshall says there are also serious repercussions when people struggle to get food.

“It’s the whole family; not just an individual person, but a whole family. It ripples through the spaces they move through…like school and work.”

One of those impacts, Ms Black said, may be an increase in school absenteeism.

“If someone can’t afford to buy food, especially for school meals, we find there’s a pretty big shame factor. If they can’t food for the kids to go to school, he just won’t send them. So it’s had some pretty lasting effects.”

Bloodwood Tree Association Mini Mart
Telfia Cameron from the Bloodwood Tree Association gets some help from Warren Wellbeloved from BHP.(Provided: Bloodwood Tree Association)

Similarly, Bloodwood Tree Association chief executive Kelly Howlett said more and more people in and around Port Hedland have been struggling in recent weeks.

“Everyone goes through the same challenge. But if you have limited means, it makes it even harder,” she said.

So people are like, ‘I’ll take a little extra flour, but I’ll only have two rolls of toilet paper because that’s all I can manage in my budget’.”

The association runs a Mini Mart, which sells food and household items at 20-50% discounted prices so people don’t go without. Ms Howlett says there has been “substantial demand” for the small retail outlet.

“We had probably spent days serving three to eight customers, and now we regularly serve close to 20.”

Empty shelves in the supermarket.
The shortages have been particularly difficult for people who travel to a regional hub from remote communities to stock up on supplies. (ABC Pilbara: Samantha Goerling)

Many of the people most affected by the shortages are those who come to the regional hub from outlying communities to do their shopping.

“If people are resupplying from the surrounding remote communities, whether it’s Yandeyarra or Warralong, it’s even more difficult for them, because they come in and then try to access things, but then the inability to get back to town when things are here.”

“People in communities are always used to having a bit of stock on hand because you can have floods, you can shake things up, but now they can’t. It makes it a real challenge.”


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