Farmers reach out for food security

By Rodney Woods

With high input costs putting more and more pressures on farmers across the district, Shepparton Family and Financial Services manager Michelle Attenborough says she is seeing more farming families seeking help to put food on the table.

While the Shepparton branch has only been open since July, Ms Attenborough, who came across from the Bendigo branch, said it was unusual for farming families to ask for help.

“We don't often get farming communities — but this year is different,” she said.

“We've started seeing farming families, six or seven, coming in for food security.

“We're very lucky. (Shepparton) FoodShare brings in fresh fruit, vegetables, bread and staples, which then allows families to build healthy and nutritious meals for two to three days.”

Shepparton Family and Financial Services also works with organisations such as Salvocare, CatholicCare, Rumbalara, Centrelink and Beyond Housing to help those in need.

“If one can't provide a service, we'll work with others to help out,” Ms Attenborough said.

Shepparton Family and Financial Services also offers a no-interest loan scheme.

She said the reason farming families were seeking assistance was because of the current conditions as well as the price of water.

“There's not enough in the kitty, and harvest is not great.”

While farmers are looking after their physical health by seeking out food security options, their mental health is being neglected according to Maree Maher, who works for a medical centre in Benalla.

“They need to open up communication, conversation and speak to someone close to them so they can take the next step,” she said.

“If they see the doctor and go through an actual health plan, the next stage is to get them to services.”

● If anything in the story has raised issues, please call Lifeline's 24-hour helpline on 131 114.

For more drought assistance stories, turn to pages 10 and 11.