Free food in high demand at Foodbank SA giveaway at Murray Bridge Racecourse

Addressing a need: Greg Pattinson, Chad Wingard and Adrian Pederick converse at a pop-up Foodbank event on Wednesday. Photo: Peri Strathearn.
Addressing a need: Greg Pattinson, Chad Wingard and Adrian Pederick converse at a pop-up Foodbank event on Wednesday. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Food security is a problem for hundreds of Murray Bridge families, judging by the response to a Foodbank SA give-away in the city on Wednesday.

More than 350 people took advantage of the free fruit and vegetables, pantry goods and drinks available at Murray Bridge Racecourse.

The event was not advertised, and deliberately so.

Those who attended were all referred by welfare agencies, church groups, Centrelink or the local council.

Foodbank's chief executive officer, Greg Pattinson, said it was the first such event to be held in country South Australia.

"We run a pop-up event maybe once every two months in areas that don't have a permanent Foodbank, to serve the area and to get a sense of the demand in that area," he said.

"We knew there was an impact here because of the Thomas Foods fire, but didn't know how significant it was to the rest of the community."

Given the demand, he hoped to talk to the state government about establishing a permanent Foodbank shop-front in Murray Bridge: something like an op-shop for food, with prices around a tenth of those at a typical retail store.

Member for Hammond Adrian Pederick, who dropped in on the event, gave the idea his cautious support.

We knew there was an impact here because of the Thomas Foods fire, but didn't know how significant it was to the rest of the community.

Greg Pattinson

"Perhaps there's potential for something more permanent in future ... if that can be managed," he said.

In the meantime, he said the pop-up idea was magic, and that he hoped it would return.

Standing side by side with Foodbank's volunteers were players from the Port Adelaide Football Club, including hometown hero Chad Wingard, who said he felt privileged to lend a hand.

"I've been on the other side of this, being from Murray Bridge," he said.

"Giving back is one of the best things you can do in life."

More than 100,000 South Australians access food support every month, including more than 30,000 children, according to Foodbank SA.

Mr Pattinson said both the generosity of donors and the level of need were greater in regional areas, and that children and Indigenous people were both over-represented among the needy.

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