On the Road Again

Andrew's father with new loaves and fishes truck

By Paul O’Rourke

Andrew Hillier drove from Brisbane to Melbourne twice last year to collect two new trucks for Loaves and Fishes’ food rescue and distribution work in feeding hungry Tasmanians.

The long distance trips in October and December saved money in freight costs and got Andrew out of the office, but importantly, enabled him to spend some quality time with his father and a school chaplain who each accompanied him on a trip.

The two, eight-tonne refrigerated vehicles cost $280,000 and enable Loaves and Fishes to substantially increase its ability to deliver bulk food to hungry Tasmanians. One vehicle will serve the north of the state, the other based in Hobart to service a new southern kitchen producing thousands of ready-to-eat meals.

Taking a friend for a ride and talking about life energises the CEO of Loaves and Fishes and Devonport Chaplaincy who has built his life on developing strong and healthy relationships.

Andrew, who shares the name of one of Jesus’ 12 apostles, says his Christian faith is all about relationships: God’s relationship with us, and our relationship with one another.

Jesus told his disciples the greatest commandments, the core tenant of Christianity, was to wholeheartedly love God and our neighbour.

The two organisations he leads are about practically helping people through relationships with farmers, retailers, service providers, schools, teachers, parents, students.

Devonport Chapaincy’s mission is “making life better, one relationship at a time.”

Similarly, Loaves and Fishes exists to deliver “food and hope”, hope being the confidence that encouragement and the practical support of friends offer in times of need.

Andrew started Devonport Chaplaincy in 2005 with two others, chaplain and teacher Julie Blanden, and Devonport pastor David Angliss, to finance and expand school chaplaincy.

He started Loaves and Fishes in 2018 with former SecondBite state manager Aaron Kropf who he met when Andrew was trying to get food for school breakfast programs.

Of his interstate trips, Andrew said: “I’m all for taking every practical opportunity to make connections and enjoy and build relationships.

“We had some amazing conversations, from theology and family, to everyday life.

“My dad, who is 87, used the trip to reminisce about the many country towns he used to visit, either through business, or on our many family holidays.

“Every school holiday, we would load up the family car and drive. It was an amazing experience.”

new truck in Brisbane

Andrew’s commitment to authentic and honourable relationships in pursuit of making life better for others has earned him widespread respect and a voice, from Government to the farm gate, board room, and within the church and charitable communities.

He has been unashamedly outspoken in his advocacy of those doing it tough in our State, sometimes to the annoyance of those he is seeking to influence. However, his detractors do not doubt his sincerity or his ability to deliver.

“Jesus would be mortified and disappointed at the number of people going hungry in a state that grows so much fresh food,” he said.

“But he would also be front and centre in helping to feed those who were hungry as he did when he walked the earth.”

Andrew, on behalf of Loaves and Fishes, is part of a food coalition established to substantially reduce hunger, now affecting one-in-two Tasmanians in the amount and type of food they can afford.

“I’m so proud to be part of a coalition where organisations put aside their own agendas and make sacrifices to solve the problem of so many Tasmanians needlessly going hungry,” he said.

A key component of the coalition’s “Have you eaten well today?” campaign is drawing attention to where those who are missing meals can access food relief. Andrew says 90% of hungry Tasmanians don’t know how to access food relief.

Cost-of-living increases, from mortgage and rent payments, to food, power and fuel are forcing more of the middle class and upper middle class into poverty and hunger.

Andrew says some of the “new hungry” need temporary help, while many others are experiencing entrenched disadvantage and need long term support.

“We are trying to take innovative approaches to community problems.

“Part of the solution is highlighting the enormous need and encouraging Tasmanians to love their neighbour.

“We also need to create a portal where Tasmanians can find local help, and then increase the number of place-based food distribution channels, such as in schools, sporting clubs, businesses and service clubs.

“Tasmanians need to know what’s in season and how to cook what they get to make nutritious and tasty meals.”

Like all good evangelists, Andrew has been persuasive in converting others to the cause, a combination of a clear vision to meet a demonstrable need, and the leader’s commitment to nurturing and valuing relationships.

Passion, performance and personal relationships have resulted in favour from Government, growing donations of cash and food, and in-kind support from business.

Examples include a team of skilled tradies helping to renovate the Devonport warehouse, offsetting the cost of fuel in transporting the new trucks from Brisbane by bringing back some equipment for a friend who saved on freight by making a donation, and getting free passage from SeaRoad to bring the vehicles across Bass Strait.

“When enough people are aware of the need and committed to the cause, you can make a real difference in the lives of people.”