THE demand for food relief is soaring as hundreds turn into thousands of people in desperate need.
Survivors R Us founder Maria Martin and her small team of volunteers, based in Cardiff, have been working hard to pull together 3000 hampers for people in the Hunter region in the past three months.
That's up from an average of about 270 per month. Food Bank has come to the party, she said, donating 120 hampers every week.
"It's been an enormous challenge - a lot of agencies weren't open through the pandemic but we stayed open because the need is there. We have people walking through the door every day after food assistance."
It's 'anybody and everybody' Ms Martin said, not just low income earners. "We've had families that are living in cars, it's on the increase not on the decrease.
Most of it is people are losing their jobs, that's a real big thing, they've had two wages coming into the home and they are down to nothing or just down to one income so they are paying the bills but going without food one or two times per week.
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"Food bank have given us hundreds of frozen diners and we have given way those, about six pallets, and I have increased my order each week - our order has gone from $1000 to nearly $200 per week."
Ms Martin said she used to have 81 volunteers, and is now running with about 30, but was down to seven through the thick of the pandemic.
Local police also became involved to help out with the delivery effort, with Lake Macquarie Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer, Ray Fuller, in the lead taking hampers to people unable to collect them, or reluctant to ask.
"What shocked a lot of community is when they saw my name badge, they weren't expecting someone in the police force to be dropping off these relief packs," he said.
Elders in the community have helped him reach out to people in need, and he has helped deliver to others in the community in return.
Federal Shortland MP Pat Conroy said he was appalled about the level of demand in the community for food and rent assistance. "This demonstrates that there are lots of people in our community doing it tough and the economic crisis caused by the pandemic is far from over," he said.
"I think it may get worse as the assistance ends from the federal government, which seems to have assumed that once we hit 80 per cent that things will automatically get better and it won't for a lot of people, they will be struggling and they are struggling.
"That's why I am calling on the government to look at how they can assist charities like Survivors R Us and others in the community because the need is there."