Struggling to put food on the table

Amira* is a single mother with four children who, at times, struggles to put enough food on the table. Vinnies Victoria met her through one of our reading clubs that her children attended after our volunteer approached her to see if there was anything else Vinnies could do. Amira immediately asked if we helped out with food. 

The family now receives a weekly hamper of dry food staples, such as rice and pasta, along with supermarket vouchers. Amira likes to cook and prepares meals like chicken with rice and vegetables, but some days, her family just has a little bread and cheese to eat. Her children don’t complain and she tries to keep the stress of the situation away from them.

Amira moved to Australia from an island near Africa many years ago and her husband followed afterwards, but they have since separated. He visits the children occasionally and sometimes contributes small amounts of money, but this is far outweighed by the expenses she faces looking after their family.

They are privately renting and Amira receives childcare benefit. After paying their rent, she only has $200–$300 left a fortnight. Money for food shopping is only available on the fortnights when no utility bills are due. “On the fortnights when I have to pay bills, that is very stressful for me, because with the electricity and gas, it’s too expensive,” she says. 

So at times, the food Vinnies delivers is all the family receives.

“I try to manage things well for the children,” she says. “I don’t want them to feel stress, so I don’t show that I am in stress and struggling. I try my best.”

Amira is fearful about how long she will be able to remain in the house she’s renting, and is on the list for commission housing, but has been told the waiting time is 12 years. She and the children have had to move eight times and were even homeless last winter for three months after a fire destroyed the kitchen in their house. They lived in friends’ garages. 

Vinnies conference member, Lina Pahor, who first approached Amira at the reading club, says that Vinnies looked for the family during the period that they were homeless and kept visiting their old house in case they returned, so she was very glad when Amira found new accommodation and made contact again with Vinnies. 

Lina recalls how Vinnies helped make Christmas last year a special event for Amira and her family. All the children received presents and books at the reading club’s end-of-year party which they loved, but Lina also picked up the family and took them to the Vinnies Soup Van’s Christmas party. They were served a hot cooked lunch and more Christmas presents. “Amira was blown away,” says Lina. 

“It was so lovely having them all join in. Amira does an amazing job with her children, but it’s very tough for them.” 

*Name has been changed to protect identity.