In a vast warehouse in Western Sydney, operated by Australia’s largest food relief charity, it’s not unusual to see uniformed Australian Defence Force members working on the production line.

Standing alongside Foodbank staff and volunteers, they help pick and pack emergency hampers with staples such as pasta, rice, tinned vegetables, tea, coffee and biscuits.

Foodbank NSW & ACT Chief Executive Officer John Robertson said the charity was packing about 7500 emergency relief hampers a week.

“Because our volunteer base is declining as a result of the restrictions, without the ADF support there is no way we would be able to keep up with this demand,” Mr Robertson said.

“Since the last week of July we have been shipping out about 600,000- 660,000 meals a week.”

For Lieutenant Hugh Manson, from the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment, who has led ADF teams in the warehouse, it means a lot to lend a hand.

“It’s fantastic to support Foodbank by picking and packing emergency food hampers and delivering them to people in need,” Lieutenant Manson said.  

ADF members and NSW Police have assisted with deliveries in Sydney and to remote and regional communities.

Superintendent David Waddell, of the NSW Police, said it was an opportunity for both the ADF and police to support and interact with the community.

“This is a really good opportunity for the police and the ADF to engage with the community, and build relationships with not-for-profit organisations such as Foodbank,” he said. 

NSW Commander of the COVID-19 Task Force Colonel Warwick Young said one of the first tasks the ADF was given at the beginning of Operation COVID-19 Assist 18 months ago was at Foodbank. 

“To see how Foodbank runs is very heart-warming because it delivers much needed help to the community,” Colonel Young said.  

Foodbank receives surplus food from major retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, suppliers, farmers and growers.  

Colonel Young said ADF assistance - ranging from Foodbank to COVID-19 tracing, vaccinations and hotel quarantine - was well received by the public.

He said part of defending Australia was to make people feel safe and secure.

“We are providing a sense of security and providing hope in a very difficult time,” Colonel Young said.