Southern Kitchen

The Grace Centre . . . home to the Loaves and Fishes emergency food relief kitchen.

By Paul O'Rourke

A former notorious Rokeby pub will soon be producing 5000 fresh meals a week to feed Tasmanians doing it tough in a special partnership between generous donors, Loaves and Fishes Tasmania, and Grace Church.

The former Rokeby Tavern - the Village Green, has been gradually transformed over six years into the Grace Centre, a modern, vibrant community centre serving the Clarence Plains region.

Loaves and Fishes will be a non-paying tenant from September when the larger of two commercial kitchens is completed and begins producing thousands of ready-made meals for vulnerable Tasmanians.

Loaves and Fishes will also use the space to employ disadvantaged Clarence Plains students and adults, teach cooking classes and offer training in nutrition and health.

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

Clarence Plains organisations joined Tasmanian Governor, Her Excellency Barbara Baker, and chef Massimo Mele at a special "taste and see" kitchen preview on Tuesday.

Loaves and Fishes staff used a borrowed mobile kitchen to produce a Mediterranean lamb and couscous dish to highlight the quality of food that will be coming from the new southern kitchen.

Multi-use site for Clarence Plains

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, as a vaccination centre, community markets and soon an emergency food relief kitchen. It is also the home of One Community Together, a local collective of residents, community groups and organisations in Clarence Plains.

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,” he said.

“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.

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

Doubling food output

Loaves and Fishes Tasmania CEO Andrew Hillier said the new southern kitchen meant the organisation could double its capacity to provide fresh, tasty, and nutritious meals to those doing it tough.

“At present, we are making meals in Devonport and transporting them to Hobart,” he said.

“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.

Food is distributed free statewide to 350 community partners as fresh produce, ready-made meals, school breakfast supplies and emergency food hampers.

The organisation plans to increase the number of school-based and adult trainees from the existing 10 due to the new kitchen.

Below: Loaves and Fishes cook Patrick O'Connell serves a guest from a makeshift mobile kitchen to highlight the quality of nutritious meals Loaves and Fishes will be delivering from a new kitchen at the Grace Centre in Rokeby. He was joined by School Food Matters manager Julie Dunbabin. The pair produced a magnificent Mediterranean lamb and couscous meal.

Patrick serves usp a sotrm
Lamb and cous cous with gremolata
Massimo Mele

Chef and Loaves and Fishes ambassador Massimo Mele shares his passion for food with guests at the Grace Centre kitchen preview.