It wasn’t known as Foodbank back then. But the State Relief Committee has evolved over the years, officially adopting the Foodbank Victoria name in 2011. This brought the organisation into line with other states and territories.
It’s not surprising that the Victorian operation began in the early years of the Great Depression. The Committee, chaired by the chief of the Victorian Railways, Harold Clapp, was a group of eminent people and was sponsored by the state government. It was responsible for distributing food and other aid to the needy during times of economic hardship. Legislation in 1940 ensured that the organisation would continue beyond the end of the Depression.
Through the following decades, the Committee continued to offer aid to those affected by natural disasters such as floods and bushfires. Increasingly, it responded to calls for assistance from disadvantaged groups including deserted wives, migrants, Aboriginal people, the aged and the unemployed. In 1986, new state legislation changed the name to the Victorian Relief Committee.
The first Australian relief organisation to use the name Foodbank began operations in Sydney in 1992, inspired by similar operations overseas. Western Australia and Queensland soon had their own Foodbank organisations, followed by South Australia in 2000, the Northern Territory in 2009 and Tasmania in 2010. In Victoria, the Salvation Army and the Victorian Relief Committee launched a joint Foodbank operation in 2003 and in 2006 the merged venture became VicRelief Foodbank. The Foodbank Victoria name was officially adopted in 2011.
Today Foodbank works with growers, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers who donate food products that may be close to their expiry date, slightly imperfect or unsuccessful in the market. With contact points along the food chain, the organisation can direct food that otherwise might go to waste to a wide range of charitable organisations. Foodbank also runs the Schools Breakfast Club, supplying health breakfasts to more than 1000 schools nationwide.
It’s not the only organisation redirecting surplus food to those who need it. Ozharvest (founded in 2004) and Second Bite (founded in 2005) also collect leftover food from businesses. Second Bite formed a partnership with the Coles supermarket chain in 2011 to distribute unsold food. In 2022, with the cost of living rising steeply and an election imminent, the three organisations collaborated, urging politicians to increase funding for food relief.