When COVID-19 hit Australia, food agencies across the country were suddenly overwhelmed. But BeefBank, a charity set up and run by members of the Rotary Club of Brisbane Centenary, Qld, was well placed to help.
BeefBank’s aim is to provide meat protein to food agencies, primarily in southeast Queensland. The charity sources donated cattle or purchases it from markets, then arranges for processing and delivery.
“While most agencies can acquire fruit and vegetables relatively easily, meat protein of all types can be hard to obtain,” said former club president Neville Blomeley.
It is estimated that the charity has provided meat for close to one million meals since it started. While they normally supply around 100,000 meals a year, they have been working to boost supplies throughout the pandemic.
“It is estimated that the charity has provided meat for close to one million meals since it started. While they normally supply around 100,000 meals a year, they have been working to boost supplies throughout the pandemic.”
“All the economic data shows that the poor and disadvantaged continue to be badly hit by the pandemic and that it will take years for them to recover,” said BeefBank treasurer Graeme Stratford. Chair Andrew Rodgers added that despite Australia appearing to have tackled COVID-19 well, the need for BeefBank had never been greater.
However, sourcing animals has been a major issue, particularly during the drought. To meet demand, donations of cattle come from surprising sources. For instance, BeefBank has an agreement in place with the prison farms in Queensland. It also gets cows from supporters and even from deceased estates. There was even a cow left at a gate for them once!
And it’s not only beef. BeefBank is currently managing over three tonnes of hams and one council asked them to take over a flock of sheep it had acquired against unpaid rates. They also regularly get buffalo from a couple of dairies specialising in buffalo cheese. It is a lot easier to give buffalo away than to try and sell it.
But if you are looking for a juicy steak, forget it! Meat is always in tremendous demand by the various street kitchens, community centres and local charities and mince, sausages and stewing meat are the order of the day. Most of it ends up in stews, lasagne, and similar. Beefbank has, however, also assisted with Christmas food hampers, supplied chickens for Christmas lunches and, in the devastating Brisbane floods 10 years ago, many of the snags cooked for the Mud Army of volunteers also came from BeefBank.
So, who gets help? Just about anyone who asks. No one is discriminated against.
President of the Rotary Club of Brisbane Centenary, Craig Carson, tells the story of visiting a street kitchen and seeing a well-dressed man drive up in a Mercedes to get a meal.
“I looked at the leader, who simply shrugged his shoulders. Many months later, that same man turned up to thank the volunteers. He had been at rock bottom and all he had were his clothes and the car in which he had been sleeping.”
You can never tell who really needs help, but the fact is most of the people BeefBank assists desperately need it.