Needy queue for free food outside The Kogarah Storehouse

Desperate times: A queue forms outside The Kogarah Storehouse for an emergency food hamper. Picture: Chris Lane
Desperate times: A queue forms outside The Kogarah Storehouse for an emergency food hamper. Picture: Chris Lane

A Kogarah charity says demand for emergency food parcels has risen by about 30 per cent due to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting job losses, leading people to queue outside their centre each week for food.

The Kogarah Storehouse - the not-for-profit charitable arm of Brighton-Kogarah Uniting Church - has been providing help to those less fortunate or people struggling with life issues in St George since 1992.

It assists more than 6000 clients a year through a range of services, including free food parcels, a weekly community lunch, no-interest loans, electricity, gas, water and Telstra payment assistance and case management.

While coronavirus restrictions led it to shut its doors to the public on March 23 and stop some services, general manager Lala Noronha said staff and volunteers had continued to work behind the scenes to support existing and new clients.

She said there had been increased demand for no-interest loans, which can be used to pay things like dentist bills or car repairs, and a 30 per cent rise in requests for emergency food supplies.

While a weekly free community lunch and a grocery service, which usually operates Monday to Friday are on hold, the charity started a weekly distribution of emergency food parcels to cope with demand.

Helping hands: Volunteers and staff, includng general manager Lala Noronha (front) pack emergency food hampers. Picture: Chris Lane

Helping hands: Volunteers and staff, includng general manager Lala Noronha (front) pack emergency food hampers. Picture: Chris Lane

"We started doing the emergency food parcels on April 7. We hand them out once a week from 1pm to 3pm and people have to ring us in advance," Ms Noronha said.

She said people queued outside the centre each Wednesday to pick up their parcels, with 90 to 100 handed out each week.

"Food is in demand," she said. "There are a lot of people we haven't seen before. Mostly international students and refugees but also families.

"There are a lot of sad stories. People are saying 'I have never done this before but I have no choice'."

She said one family sought help after the father lost his job. They had three children under seven, including a baby, and no savings.

"He said 'I have never done this before, but I have to put my ego aside because of my kids. I have to feed my kids'," she said.

Ms Noronha said the increased demand for food had put pressure on supplies, which were running low.

She welcomed donations of any non-perishable food people could spare.

"If they can just clean out their pantry. I always say, if you have five cans of food that are still there and you haven't used them, donate them to us," she said.

To organise a donation of food phone 9587 5761.

You can also donate money to The Kogarah Storehouse, BSB 634-634, account number 100033041.