Food hampers filled with purchased and donated goods are designed to provide immediate practical relief, while the second model – food hubs – allow those in need to shop for free or low-cost groceries in a 'mini supermarket'.
Low-income families can access heavily discounted items with food vouchers while bread, fruit and vegetables are free.
The third model – the social supermarket – goes one step further.
“A social supermarket is like a local low-cost supermarket with wraparound services, supports and opportunities for social connection and engagement through food,” Professor Bogomolova says.
“There is usually a café or space where you can sit down and speak with people who are in similar situations, or volunteers who can chat to you about other opportunities and services such as financial counselling or work-experience opportunities.
“It is about leveraging the moment of food insecurity as a window of opportunity to engage a person and offer them additional supports that addresses the root causes of their challenges, rather than just ‘bandaging’ by giving them food every week.”
Recognising that different food relief models all have a place, Professor Bogomolova says the key question is “are we solving the food insecurity problem in Australia if all we are doing is just giving out food?”
“How do we use the emergency food relief moment to connect people to services, opportunities to build on their strengths, and create pathways out of poverty?” she says.
Professor Bogomolova says there are many reasons why people experience food poverty.
“Problems can spiral very quickly and very dramatically,” she says. “When someone presents at an agency saying ‘hey, I’m hungry, I need food’, that moment is emotionally difficult because it is admitting you need help.
“What do we need as a sector is make sure that first point of contact is as supportive and as dignified as possible. That's where our research is making a difference.”