Published On: 21 May 2021Categories: Stories

Loaves and Fishes’ and Devonport Chaplaincy’s commitment to food relief, partnerships and training is giving a group of women new confidence and employment skills, and feeding hundreds of children in East Devonport.

Food has become the rallying point for the special partnership between Loaves and Fishes and sister agency Devonport Chaplaincy, together with TasTAFE, East Devonport Primary School, WISE Employment and East Devonport Child and Family Centre.

A dozen mature-age women, some with students at the primary school, provide a hot meal once a week for up to 150 students as part of the six-month, Certificate II course in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways.

Loaves and Fishes, who already provides fresh produce and ready-to-eat meals for the Child and Family Centre, and daily school breakfasts in partnership with the school chaplain, now provides most of the ingredients for the hot Wednesday lunches.

Students order from a choice of meals and contribute $1.

‘This partnership ticks all the boxes’

“The program ticks all the boxes for us,” said Loaves and Fishes general manager, Aaron Kropf.

“We are feeding children and families, providing practical skills to women that can lead to employment, and we are working in partnership with several organisations including our own Devonport Chaplaincy, who each get to contribute their unique and complementary expertise.”

The Child and Family Centre initiated the course and recruited participants from among local contacts. Funding came from WISE Employment and TAFE, while East Devonport Primary School contributed its kitchen and students, and Loaves and Fishes donated the food.

Chef and TAFE teacher, Keith Sanderson, who leads the course, said making the school lunches had many benefits, from feeding children a nutritious lunch and enabling the women to put theory into practice, from budgeting, literacy and problem-solving skills.

“The food has to be available, easy-to-eat, nutritious, and simple to make,” Keith said.

“The students not only have to collect the food from the Loaves and Fishes warehouse, but plan the menu based on what we have been given, also process the orders, make the meals, and deliver them to class.”

Students, mother and daughter Yvonne Perry and Shantelle Browne enjoy a course that gets them out of the house and provides new skills and friendships.

“I love that we’re doing this for the kids,” Shantelle said.

“I’d like to work in a school as a teacher’s aide, so this is a stepping stone.”

Women proud of their achievements

Child and Family Centre leader, Jenny Mountney, said students were proud of their mothers, and loved the food.

“Attendance is higher among the women on Wednesdays when they are cooking for the kids,” she said.

“The inclusion of a funded student engagement officer has significantly helped in this regard.

“The concept of incorporating the work placement (cooking) from early in the course ensures they develop a sense of responsibility and a work ethic from day one. It gives a greater sense of purpose and context to their study.

“It has been exciting to see the women’s self esteem grow along with their skills.’’

By Paul O’Rourke

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