Supermarket group, Woolworths, is promising to boost its drought support agenda in the face of deteriorating and prolonged dry conditions in many regions, partnering with leading charities to launch a new fundraising appeal.
The latest offer from the big retailer is a limited edition sunflower seedling sale as part of its Discovery Garden series, from which all funds raised will go directly to support the STAND Drought Action Appeal.
STAND stands for Support Through Australian Natural Disasters, a partnership with the Salvation Army, Rural Aid, Foodbank and Lifeline.
The charities will make use of appeal funds to continue vital work in supporting drought-impacted rural and regional communities.
The appeal will help a variety of programs including financial support for household and living expenses; on-farm support such as stock feed in drought declared areas; additional regional counsellors to help deal with the significant mental health toll caused by the drought, and addressing food insecurity in drought areas.
Every day we hear about the worsening situation in these regions from our local team members and we want to do more to support those impacted by drought
Fundraising kick starts this weekend in Woolworths supermarkets nationwide with customers invited to buy the sunflower seed kit for $2.
There will be a limit of three sunflower seed kits per customer.
Woolworths supermarkets managing director, Claire Peters, said the retailer had stores "in the heart of every community, including drought-impacted regions".
"Every day we hear about the worsening situation in these regions from our local team members and we want to do more to support those impacted by drought," she said.
"Last year during the drought action appeal, our financial commitment, along with the millions of dollars raised by our customers and team, helped our partner Rural Aid supply stock feed, counsellors and financial assistance to farmers in drought impacted regions.
"This year we're supporting The Salvation Army, Rural Aid, Foodbank and Lifeline - all play a vital role in helping alleviate the pressure of the drought, not only at the farm gate, but across the wider communities in which those farms operate."
Woolies customers who did not wish to purchase a seed kit could still contribute to the appeal with a donation at the register or with their online shop.
Money raised is helping us provide emotional support and financial relief to those affected who are struggling to pay everyday bills, including basics such as food, petrol and utilities
Salvation Army chief secretary, Colonel Mark Campbell, said it was no secret families in rural and remote areas were struggling and drought was a multifaceted issue.
"We appreciate communities don't necessarily want a hand-out," he said.
"But they want a hand-up to be able to support them to ensure their communities remain as vibrant as they should be.
"We stand in support, together with other charities in supporting drought impacted communities, with money raised helping us provide emotional support and financial relief to those affected who are struggling to pay everyday bills, including basics such as food, petrol and utilities."
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We're conscious it will be a prolonged state of crisis in rural and regional areas across Australia
Rural Aid chief executive officer, Charles Adler, said the organisation was overwhelmed by support and generosity from Woolworths shoppers during the 2018 Buy a Bale program.
"Unfortunately, the dire projection of drought is not letting up and we are yet to see the worst of its impact," he said.
"We are very conscious it will be a prolonged state of crisis in rural and regional areas across Australia and as such raising funds to be able to continue to deliver our support to those in need is essential."
Apart from on-farm support, Rural Aid offered financial assistance and mental health counselling to help keep the community spirit alive and support a positive mindset in these tough times.
Lifeline CEO, Colin Seery, said while rural and regional Australians were known for being down-to-earth, practical and resilient, it was important they knew help was available and to access that help.
"Funds raised by this appeal will enable more Lifeline skilled trainers to support drought impacted communities to better recognise and respond to signs of mental health concerns and provide conversations which offer hope."
Foodbank CEO, Briana Casey, said her organisation wanted to do all it could to ensure no child, family or individual was left with the uncertainty and stress of sourcing their next meal in regional area.
Money raised as part of the appeal would help continue this work.
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