Meet Gerry

'Vinnies is a godsend'

The price of groceries has shot up in the last year due to floods and the war in Ukraine, but what happens when there is no room in your budget to budge?  

The answer is you go without. Some of us can cut back on luxuries, but for people with no spare money, food becomes the luxury. Vinnies volunteers see more and more people in food crisis across Victoria and 91% of callers to our welfare phone line ask for groceries. 

Before Gerry* called Vinnies for help, he wasn’t just skipping one meal a day.  

“Vinnies saved my life, because I was going hungry,” says Gerry. “I had a box of cereal in the cupboard, a few packets of noodles and milk and bread. I was struggling so bad. There were days when I didn't eat breakfast or lunch, it was shocking. Then for dinner, I had a packet of noodles, bowl of cereal or toast.” 

Gerry says he was living like that for four months because he didn’t want to ask for help. 

“That diet made me feel rotten, always tired and sick – and sluggish from all the carbs. It was not good,” says Gerry. 

Gerry, 51, had been a furniture removalist, but went on a disability pension after developing a serious chronic condition 10 years ago. Then in 2020, he was also diagnosed with a rare and painful disease, which affects only one in 1 million people. He spent four months in hospital and couldn’t walk for three months. While he had always managed on his disability pension before, the second condition doubled his pharmacy bill to $80 a month.  

“It was hard, really hard. There were times when I thought, ‘Should I just give up?’” 

At the same time, there was a death in Gerry’s family and he helped pay the funeral costs, which he is still paying off. He could not make ends meet then, and finally called Vinnies in late 2021 after seeing a TV advert.  

“I felt very, very happy after Vinnies first visited, but also uncomfortable because I had never asked for help before.” 

Gerry is now provided with a food hamper every fortnight. It’s delivered by a local Vinnies volunteer who collects the food from the Inner City Soup Van hub. It contains staples such as milk, bread, tinned tuna and fruit, as well as fresh fruit and veg.  

The volunteers also add meat, eggs and other protein that they buy at the market, adding more nutritional value. Gerry receives monthly supermarket vouchers, so he has the dignity of choosing extra needed supplies himself too. The hampers and vouchers are Gerry's main source of food. 

“The help from Vinnies has made a big difference because there are a lot of things in the hamper. At times there's even a couple of chocolate bars or a packet of biscuits - treats! It makes you feel normal again having a biscuit with your coffee. 

“I like to cook. I make spaghetti bolognese with the hampers or a tuna and veggie bake that lasts a few days, or I freeze the left-overs,” says Gerry. 

He noticed a big difference in his health after receiving the hampers. “I am much more energetic now. I’m eating three meals a day and going for walks daily too. I feel good and gained a bit of weight.” 

Gerry lives in a flat in inner Melbourne paying more than two-thirds of his pension in rent. Vinnies has also helped with an electricity bill and the hampers are even more welcome during the cost of living crisis. “Everything is too expensive. It's gone out of this world, it's ridiculous. Half a kilo of mince is $8 or $9. And steak. Oh God, I haven't had a steak in [he laughs] a long, long while.” 

Gerry enjoys the visits from Vinnies. “I have good chats with the volunteer. He always asks how I'm doing. He's a lovely man. He's my saviour! It pulls on my heartstrings to know he actually cares. 

“I'm so grateful, Vinnies is a godsend.” 

*Name and image have been changed to protect the person’s identity.