Inverell's Life Foundations Food Pantry to run financial counselling workshop

Robert Walters, Jim Worsfold, Marilyn Smith, Leonie Pearce, Emma Wilson and Dallas McDonald.

Robert Walters, Jim Worsfold, Marilyn Smith, Leonie Pearce, Emma Wilson and Dallas McDonald.

From domestic violence to changes in government policy, Life Foundations Food Pantry manager Leonie Pearce said there are many reasons locals might struggle to pay their bills.

The charity rescues surplus food from retailers and producers and sells it at a heavily discounted rate for low income earners. Food is also kept aside to be given away to those who cannot pay.

Now, the pantry is hoping to reach the financially vulnerable before they reach their breaking point, hosting a ‘Better Budgeting on Low Incomes’ seminar next Tuesday. 

“Because incomes change all the time, it’s hopefully going to give them some skills (on) how to adapt,” Ms Pearce said. 

She said the Pantry wanted to empower locals to take charge of their money.

“People on low incomes are vulnerable,” Ms Pearce said.

“The companies know that, and so they get them in (by) offering great things, and they start to load themselves up with all these different finance payments and they come in here and it’s like ‘I can’t afford it. I can’t eat, I can’t pay my electricity.’”

Ms Pearce said another common challenge for those living with government assistance was learning how to cope when policy changes result in lower incomes.

She said many local mothers struggled to keep up when they began receiving Newstart payments in place of single parent payments when their youngest children turned eight.

“Those mums come in because their needs haven’t changed, their budget structure is still the same and still as demanding, but they’re getting less money - and now they have to go out to work,” Ms Pearce explained.

“So for a period of a month or two months, until they adjust to the changes, they struggle with electricity, they struggle with feeding their families.”

Financial abuse will be one focus of the seminar. Ms Pearce said people living with domestic violence often found themselves in dire situations after a partner clears out their accounts. She said the elderly were also vulnerable.

“I’ve seen it already only in the last couple of weeks - a family situation where the children actually have drained the parents’ accounts, and now they’re sitting here saying ‘I need to feed myself,’” she said.

“We’ll do whatever we can for family and so we don’t like to take any action against them, and because of that, they’re manipulated further, and further drained of finances.”

BEST Employment have jumped on board with the initiative, and donated $2500 to help the seminar run as part of their BEST in the Community funding program.

“It’s great to see this money go towards a better budgeting workshop, which is so essential,” BEST’s Robert Walters said.

Ms Pearce said the Food Pantry always welcomed both regular and one-off donations, and that cold goods and meat were often sought after to provide a more well-rounded selection for customers. 

She encouraged supermarkets to consider taking part and individuals to donate excess produce or grocery items.

“A can of soup will get somebody by for a few days,” she said.

To learn more about the Food Pantry or the June 20 seminar, call Life Foundations on 6721 0561 or email leonie@lifeinverell.com.

The Vivian Street store is open from Wednesday to Friday from 9.30am-2.30pm.

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