Published On: 29 September 2021Categories: Stories

Loaves and Fishes CEO Andrew Hillier explains why delivering $3 million worth of free food each year throughout Tasmania isn’t cheap, how you can help, and shares some exciting news about several new projects.

It takes millions of dollars to collect, store, sort, freeze, cook, pack and distribute over a million kilograms of free food statewide. Wages, rent, power, fuel, food, packaging . . .

We’re always looking for ways to increase revenue while reducing costs without sacrificing quality, volume, range and service.

Our vision and our faith always exceed our means, particularly when we’re constantly being asked for more food: from individuals, schools and agency partners.

How do we say no?

A recent visit to King Island, the home of arguably the State’s best beef and dairy, is also home to enormous need. We have been asked to help.

How do we say no?

The more we have, the more we can do, for people, the one-in-every-five Tasmanians who don’t have enough to eat.

We are already making two meals for every $1 donated.

We need more food, but our greatest immediate need is trucks, big trucks!

We desperately need two new 16-tonne refrigerated vehicles to deliver more food, more often, to more places. The cost is about $260,000.

Whoever said Australia stops without trucks was spot on.

At this stage we’re not sure how to fund this critical need. So far, attempts to secure partners for this major capital project have been unsuccessful.

We’re using older, smaller vehicles, but they can’t keep pace with the demand.

We’ve applied for grants, approached trucking and logistics companies for help, but so far been unable to

Will you help meet this need, or do you know someone who can?

We feel compelled to do more: provide more food, employ more trainees, start more social enterprise initiatives to generate more income.

And yet we have so much to be thankful for.

We’re thankful for State Government funding, representing about a third of our annual budget.

And we are humbled and thankful for the million kilograms of free food donated by farms, bakeries, supermarkets, community and school gardens, scouts, service clubs, churches and individuals. There would be no Loaves and Fishes without such extraordinary generosity.

Then there are the other in-kind donations of time, labour, product and expertise; from knife sharpening and laundry, to painting, cleaning, IT support, logistics, building and construction, and myriad other blessings. We’re thankful.

We are encouraged by the hundreds of donors who give financially to our work so we can feed Tasmanians doing it tough. We’re thankful for the monthly donations, the one-off $4 gifts at one of our tap-and-go retail terminals, the foundations and philanthropic organisations who invest in us, the individuals and service clubs who buy our condiments and raise money through various fundraising events, the businesses who sponsor these events, raise money on our behalf or make donations from sales.

I also want to commend the more than 220 agencies statewide who partner with us in distributing the food we deliver. Ultimately, no one gets fed without these amazing friends: charities, neighbourhood houses, churches and schools who put food into the right hands and mouths.

These amazing grassroots partners are the public face, hands and feet of food relief.

Punching above our weight

Finally, I want to say a sincere and profound thank you to our dedicated and passionate staff and volunteers who serve so sacrificially, skilfully and cheerfully to achieve our mission. We can do a lot with a little as a result of these precious people.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that we are only three years old, and punching well above our weight

New kitchens and cafe

We are in the throes of developing a new production kitchen in Devonport to significantly increase our ability to make free meals, while allowing us to expand our “for profit” social enterprise initiatives to help fund our relief work.

The kitchen will enable us to provide training, and will be used by other food agencies to prepare food for their charitable work.

Mid next year we will open a new southern kitchen in Rokeby on Hobart’s eastern shore, capable of doubling our emergency food capacity and providing training in hospitality and cooking. The kitchen will be based at the Grace Centre, site of the former Rokeby Tavern.

We will have much more to say about this exciting project in the next few months.

We are also partnering with a Devonport church to develop a cafe offering community meals to those in need, as well as serving drinks and light snacks for the general public and visitors. Again, we will have much more to say as the project takes shape.

More meals in schools

We are also working with the Tasmanian School Canteen Association on a school meals program.

We will help buy the food and plan lunch menus to feed thousands of children a week in 30 schools. We know that the program will create healthier children, who will appreciate that nutritious food tastes good. Eating well at school will increase attendance, improve social connection and help students learn, while also taking pressure off the family food budget.

There’s still so much to do, and we’re in a hurry to meet the urgent and growing need before us.

Your tax deductible gift will help us deliver more food and hope to more people, in more places, more often, in more ways through more partners.

Together, we really can achieve our vision of ensuring every Tasmanian has access to sufficient, tasty, nutritious food.

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