Risdon Vale neighbourhood centre team

Risdon Vale Neighbourhood Centre staff, from left, Jane Howard, Sarah O'Brien and Cheree Lockley.

By Paul O'Rourke

Demand for food has doubled in the six months since Sarah O’Brien took over as manager of Risdon Vale Neighbourhood Centre.

Cost-of-living pressures, including rising rent, fuel and food expenses, are taking a crippling toll on the state's most marginalised citizens.

“We just can’t get enough food,” she said.

“It’s our biggest need.

“About a quarter of those who need food are either sleeping in cars or on friends’ couches, including with kids.

“If you can’t afford rent in Risdon Vale, then you can’t afford rent anywhere else in Hobart.

“All the shelters are completely full.’’

The neighbourhood centre feeds up to 60 families a week, using a combination of donated fresh food, bread products and frozen meals from Loaves and Fishes, and purchased staples including pasta and milk from Coles and FoodBank.

“Loaves and Fishes has been fantastic. We’re so thankful for the help.

“We’re still having to spend $150 on food, and I don’t know how much longer we can afford to do that.”

The centre is working with various agencies to resurrect the Risdon Vale Prison community garden and the neighbourhood centre’s own garden. Both have fallen into disrepair as a result of COVID which continues to keep inmates confined to the jail, and a lack of community volunteers to manage the plots.

Many of the centre’s activities revolve around food, from breakfast programs and general food hampers, to after-school children’s programs which end in a meal.

“There’s a lot of need out there. All the neighbourhood houses are saying the same thing,” Sarah said.

Loaves and Fishes would have to more than double the volume of food it distributes to meet the demand of existing partners and those on a waiting list.

Every dollar donates enables us to make two meals for our neighbours in need.

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Food boxes at Risdon Vale

Boxed food packs for local families.