Food relief organisation Foodbank is continuing work to establish a food distribution hub in Ballarat, that would improve regional welfare agencies' ability to access fresh and staple foods.
The Victorian government awarded Foodbank $10 million in a November 2018 pre-election promise, to establish food hubs in Ballarat and Morwell.
Foodbank Victoria chief executive Dave McNamara said the organisation was working to be ready to purchase a site and begin with construction as soon as the funding was released next financial year.
Mr McNamara said a Foodbank Hub based in Ballarat would bolster support for emergency relief agencies and localise supply in the future, but the current situation was 'unprecedented' as there was no supply at all.
I have never seen a scenario like this where the impacts on so many aspects of the community have been so broad.Andrew Eales, Ballarat Foundation
He said the current coronavirus crisis was a tough time for the sector as panic buying had cut off the supply of excess supermarket goods.
"This puts a lot of pressure on being able to provide to our agencies while at the same time they are seeing unprecedented demand with hundreds of thousands of people who are losing their jobs," Mr McNamara said.
"On top of that you have the average age of volunteers in regional Victoria is sitting around 75.
"We have been working almost around the clock trying to find supply, working with the major retailers and working with government trying to get supply back in to our emergency relief centre."
Foodbank has employed a project management company and is in the final stage of appointing an architect for the Ballarat hub.
The organisation will purchase land for the hub as soon as funding is made available.
It is expected the construction will cost around $4.2 million with remaining of the $5 million funding for the Ballarat site to support operational costs.
READ MORE: Labor promises Ballarat Foodbank hub
Foodbank currently provides food to five Ballarat agencies from its Yarraville Hub.
"A regional hub would allow us to pre-position a lot of food which our charities aren't able to store," Mr McNamara said.
"In the lead up to this event we pushed out thousands of mixed grocery hampers through our network hoping we could get as much food into our agencies as possible to prepare for the demand spike.
"If we had the Ballarat hub built we would have a centre that would be able to help more effectively with that."
Ballarat Foundation advocated for the establishment of a food security hub in Ballarat in 2018, after research showed at least 12 per cent of Ballarat's population experienced food insecurity.
Chief executive Andrew Eales said he was concerned people in Ballarat and surrounding regional areas would slip through the gaps of available support during the coronaivurs pandemic, with many supermarket home deliveries suspended and large distances between some neighbours and family.
Mr Eales said the Ballarat Foundation was working to ensure the Feed Ballarat Appeal could support food relief efforts amid a struggle to meet demand.
"What we are seeing at the moment I think is the start, not the end," he said.
"We need to be responding as the need evolves. I have never seen a scenario like this where the impacts on so many aspects of the community have been so broad.
"It is an incredible challenge but I have real faith we will get through this."
Community members are encouraged to donate fresh and staple food items to Salvation Army Ballarat who will distribute donations to other welfare agencies.
Financial donations can be made to the Ballarat Foundation's Feed Ballarat Appeal.
"This is really about the community coming together and caring for each other," Mr McNamara said.
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.