I'll be seeking to table the following urgency motion at our next Council meeting on Tuesday 9 August. This follows recent discussions I've had with Inner West Police Area Command about the rise in food theft they're seeing across the Inner West, and Addison Road Community Organisation about the sharp rise in people seeking food relief.
1. Notes the advice received from Inner West Police Area Command (IWPAC) about the increase in retail theft, particularly of food items, in the Inner West;
2. Notes the advice received from Addison Road Community Organisation about the rise in people seeking access to its food relief services;
3. Urgently investigates opportunities to:
a. Work in partnership with IWPAC, local food relief services, local shopping centres, and other relevant stakeholders to raise awareness of the supports available across the Inner West local government area (LGA), and help connect people to these services;
b. Promote support services available to residents through Council’s communication channels;
c. Provide additional funding to local food relief organisations to help them deliver these services to residents, including through Council’s grants program;
d. Work with South Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) on developing a coordinated response on this issue;
4. Writes to the Prime Minister, the Premier and relevant Ministers to express our concern about this emerging issue, and request that they provide urgent funding to organisations that provide food relief in our local government area; and
5. Provides a report back to the September Council meeting on actions taken, as well as any further recommendations.
I was recently contacted by the CEO of Addison Road Community Organisation, Rosanna Barbero, who advised that they had been contacted with IWPAC about a rise in food theft in the Inner West, and are now working with IWPAC to provide vouchers and information about their food relief services to residents.
Following this call, Council’s Director Community and I met with IWPAC on Tuesday 2 August to be briefed on the issue. IWPAC advised that they have recently seen an increase in theft from retail stores, particularly of food products.
This timing of this increase corresponds with recent rises in interest rates, food prices, energy bills and other living expenses, none of which are likely to fall any time soon.
The extent and rate of the rise has prompted IWPAC to launch community outreach to increase public awareness of support services available – including meetings with Addison Road Community Organisation, stalls at local shopping centres and social media posts – to try and prevent theft from occurring. They expressed their appreciation for the work Council already does in this space, and would welcome any further support we can provide to spread the word, and to support residents in our community who are or would otherwise be at risk of resorting to stealing food to survive.
Addison Road Community Organisation has also requested emergency financial support to help distribute food relief to residents in need. They have advised that they have seen a significant rise in recent weeks in people accessing their services. For example, in the last six weeks, the number of hampers they have distributed free of charge to people has risen from 300 a week to 478. The number of $10 vouchers they have issued each week to people who cannot afford to pay for groceries from their Food Pantry store has risen from 140 to 300 a week.
To that end, I propose that we urgently investigate how we can work with IWPAC, our existing networks and local services to connect people in need of food relief to the support they need. As this issue extends beyond our own LGA, I am also proposing that we seek to work with our local government networks and advocate to state and federal governments to address the issue, particularly in terms of securing funding for our local food relief services.