NSW Nationals Leader John Barilaro has announced $630,000 to help country charities distribute food to the needy.

The Acting Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, Small Business and Skills John Barilaro announced the funding commitment at a gathering of Foodbank’s charity partners in Lismore on Wednesday.

Mr Barilaro said until now charities in regional and remote areas, which used the services of Foodbank, were paying a $50 delivery fee per pallet of food. However, the $630,000 funding commitment meant they would no longer have to pay a transport fee per delivery, bringing them in line with city counterparts.

“This funding support for Foodbank means country charities will no longer be slugged additional transport fees for the food supplies that feed our most vulnerable,” Mr Barilaro said. “Charities in regional areas do such critical work; so to me, it was important that they were put on equal footing to those operating in the city, and weren’t disadvantaged because of their location. By helping Foodbank in this way, regional charities will now have more money in their pockets to buy more food, and in turn deliver food relief for more people in need.”

Nationals Candidate for Lismore Austin Curtin said he was pleased to see the Nationals in Government putting funding towards such important work.

“As someone who lives in a regional area, I know there are great benefits that come from that, but often people who live in the city have no idea of the real challenges we face here,” Mr Curtin said. “It’s decisions like this one that show why it’s so important to have people in government who don’t just recognise the challenges that regional communities face, but actually address them, and find solutions.”

Foodbank NSW & ACT CEO Gerry Andersen said the support from the Nationals in Government meant from next month, every pallet delivery to regional charities would be transport-fee free.

“More than 35 per cent of the food distributed by Foodbank NSW & ACT is delivered to charities located in regional NSW,” Mr Andersen said. “This support from the NSW Government means on average, our regional charity partners will have an extra $150 every week to put towards food supplies, instead of covering transport costs.”

Last year, Foodbank NSW & ACT delivered more than 4000 tonnes of food to regional charity partners, which equated to 7.6 million meals. But despite these deliveries, those charities needed a whopping 41 per cent more to meet demand.

“Recent studies show 15 per cent of the Australian population, or 3.6 million people, experienced food insecurity in the 12 month period leading into 2017,” Mr Andersen said. “What’s more, children are the most vulnerable, with one in five kids experiencing food insecurity over that same period.”

Allan Hoskins from Lismore Uniting Church, which partnered with Foodbank, said the relief would be significant.

“This funding will directly benefit the people we serve,” Mr Hoskins said. “It will allow our schools, charities and pantries to access food and provide it for those who are currently missing out. We applaud the NSW Government for its commitment to the equal support of regional and city charities, ensuring no one in NSW is disadvantaged simply because of where they live.”

Foodbank NSW & ACT is in its 26th year of operation and is the largest food relief organisation in Australia, providing 70 per cent of food relief for charities. Foodbank NSW & ACT works with food manufacturers, retailers and farmers, sourcing food donations and redirecting it to people in need.