Loaves and Fishes doubles emergency food relief

Loaves and Fishes Tasmania will double its emergency food relief capacity to 9000 meals a week for the state’s most vulnerable with the opening of a new kitchen at the Grace Centre in Rokeby.

After five years of planning, fundraising and construction, the new Southern Kitchen on Ralph Terrace, site of the former Rokeby Tavern, will officially open with a banquet in the coming months.

The Southern Kitchen opens at a time when the latest UTAS Tasmania Project Cost of Living Survey shows the number of Tasmanians skipping meals has tripled in 18 months.

One-in-two Tasmanians are now making changes to the amount and type of food they eat as cost-of-living pressures further gouge household food budgets.

The kitchen opening function will showcase the work of Loaves and Fishes, acknowledge the generous sponsors who helped make the kitchen a reality, provide a training opportunity for staff, and raise vital funds for extra kitchen equipment.

Honoured and invited guests will be treated to a four-course meal including a drinks package. Prepared and served in conjunction as a special partnership between Loaves and Fishes Tasmania staff and our Food Hero Ambassador, Tasmanian Chef Massimo Mele, the Italian-inspired menu, is based on dishes from the Chef’s own renowned Hobart restaurant, Peppina, where Massimo is talented Culinary Director.

The Southern Kitchen has been steadily increasing the number of meals for food relief since starting production after Easter.

Working together, the new Rokeby Kitchen site and existing kitchen in Devonport, already produce 9000 meals each week. This output will continue to grow over the next 12 months.

Loaves and Fishes Tasmania also distributes close to 20,000 kilograms of fresh produce each week to 350 food agencies statewide. This figure is also expected to increase significantly as more producers, wholesalers and retailers learn about Loaves and Fishes Tasmania work.

Loaves and Fishes Tasmania General Manager Aaron Kropf, who works directly from The Grace Centre at Rokeby, said the new kitchen had already provided new jobs for five young Tasmanians, an apprentice who formerly attended Jordan River Learning Federation, and six school-based trainees from Bayview Secondary College.

Restaurant-quality meals

“The food being produced out of the new kitchen is restaurant-quality thanks to our team led by Production Supervisor Patrick O’Connell who transferred to Hobart from Devonport,” Aaron said.

“They have produced confit duck, salmon and trout dishes as well as roasts, casseroles, stir frys and baked goods ... Giving people nutritious, tasty food made with Tasmanian produce shows that we care and want to restore dignity to those who are struggling.

“The function room at The Grace Centre also provides an opportunity for us to do paid catering which offsets some of the cost of our charitable food relief.”

Creating food connections

“We have already received incredible community support and we are happy to be here.

Having been based in Devonport with just a small warehouse at Glenorchy, we are not well known in the south and I look forward to connecting with suppliers who want to donate surplus produce to feed our neighbours.”

The Grace Centre kitchen project has been funded by the State Government’s Healthy Tasmania Fund, Rotary, Presbyterian Care, and Grace Church.

Grace Church bought the former pub in 2016 to develop a multi-use community centre to serve Clarence Plains. The Grace Centre is used throughout the week for various community meetings, community markets and functions.

Grace Church Pastor Dermot Cottuli said he first met in 2018 with the Loaves and Fishes leadership to establish a kitchen to serve the state’s south.

“We are in an area of great need in a state where more and more people are struggling to eat,” explained Dermot.

“We are excited to put the new kitchen to such good use with an organisation that has been doing such an incredible job from its kitchen in Devonport.

“Over the years, people have seen the old decrepit pub, which held many bad memories for so many, being resurrected before their eyes.”

Grace Centre a gift to Clarence Plains

“The Grace Centre is our gift to the community. Our church continues to meet at Emmanuel Christian School Performing Arts Centre to ensure visitors to the Grace Centre don’t feel like there’s an expectation they attend our church.”

Loaves and Fishes Tasmania CEO Andrew Hillier, noted the new Southern Kitchen meant that the organisation could double its capacity to provide fresh, tasty, and nutritious meals to those doing it tough.

“Until now, we had been making meals in Devonport and transporting them to Hobart.

"We are incredibly thankful to the Grace Centre for wanting to serve their community and the many generous partners who invested in the development: Healthy Tasmania Fund, Rotary, Grace Church, and Presbyterian Care. It has taken a long time and much patience to get from concept to completion due to COVID and a significant cost increase due to the building boom and the resulting increase in materials.”

Loaves and Fishes rescues, enhances and redistributes surplus and donated food, much of which would otherwise go to waste.