Every Australian should be able to access enough of the basic foods they need to stay healthy, active and well. Yet for more and more families in Australia, struggling with the costs of putting enough good food on the table is an ongoing problem – and not just a short-term, temporary situation that can be resolved with a quick fix.
For decades, emergency relief services have formed an important safety net for families going through difficult times. However, most of these agencies were set up to handle emergencies and not chronic hardship – so access is often restricted to ‘one-off’ assistance in times of crisis, which leaves many in a week-to-week lurch. In addition, few agencies offer fresh, quality fruit and vegetables. So, by donating a weekly box of fresh, high-quality produce and pantry staples to one thousand families across Australia for up to forty weeks a year, The One Box fills a vital gap in the food relief system.
The school teachers and community workers who work most closely with those participating in The One Box program tell us that it provides families with a healthy boost. One staff member from a Victorian relief organisation said:
“The One Box Program has definitely improved the diet and nutrition of family members. Fresh food has been a much-valued addition to school lunches and after-school healthy snacks. The fresh vegetables have helped refocus the evening meals on preparation of meals at home.
When I last saw [a client who receives The One Box], she thanked me again for participation in the Program, saying, “My kids just love the boxes, we really look forward to them as an end-of-week treat.””
Staff member, regional Victorian community organisation
Some families also report that The One Box provides them with the resources they need to enjoy a wider range of fruits and vegetables than otherwise would be accessible. The One Box helps them to prepare ‘more balanced’ and nutritious school lunchboxes and home-cooked meals.
Jil*, a mum of two children from Victoria, recently told us about how she thinks The One Box has affected her family’s health:
“It means the kids have got fruit in their lunchboxes, which they wouldn’t always be getting. So, that’s made a huge difference. I’m just so glad that it [The One Box] is fresh food, because you don’t realise how much better it is until you’ve actually had it.
Everything just shifts when you’re allowed to have something just a little bit extra, which a lot of people just take for granted. Overall mental health, physical health, like everything. Just a whole big shift. I think it’s going to be a long-lasting, ever-lasting sort of shift.”
We know that a family’s physical, emotional and social wellbeing is likely to be affected if they are constantly worrying about running out of food; if the quality, variety or quantity of their school lunches or family meals is forced to be cut down; or if families have no choice but to go without food. Every parent and child is told that they should always ‘choose healthy foods’ – but the choices you can make depend on the choices you have, and too often, we forget to ask about the choices that people have.
When we speak to families accessing The One Box, they tell us that they already know which foods are best for them. So, it’s all of our work to make sure that every family can readily access the foods that will help keep them happy and healthy. If we all work together to take hunger and food insecurity off the table, we can ensure that every parent and child has the stability and nourishment they need to build their best possible future.
*Not her real name
Written by Vivien Yii, Research Coordinator at The Fruit Box Group