Published On: 9 September 2020Categories: Stories

Loaves and Fishes trainee cook Zac Russell (pictured) makes the same kind of meals he used to receive from us when he was unemployed and living at Quoiba.

“I know how other people must feel when they receive our food hampers,” Zac, 19, said while on a break from working in the Devonport kitchen capable of producing up to 11,000 meals a week for Tasmanians doing it tough.

“We were getting the hampers for a few months. At the time I was on Centrelink.

“I had to pay rent and food. There were times when all I had was a loaf of bread to last me a week.

“The job agency told me about Loaves and Fishes, and we started getting the hampers.”

Zac is three months into his traineeship. He studies at Devonport TAFE where he is completing a Certificate Two in Kitchen Operations.

He is one of two fulltime trainees employed in the kitchen. Loaves and Fishes also offers school-based traineeships and provides skills training for the long-term unemployed at its Hobart and Devonport warehouses.

“I still can’t believe I get to work here,” Zac said.

“It’s the best feeling ever to be in a team environment where people want you, where you can work in a team and have fun.

“I used to be so afraid of change. Now, it’s thrilling.”

Shelters, mental health struggles and loss

Zac has had more than his share of trouble in his young life. His father died when he was 13, he and his mother have lived in shelters, and Zac has battled mental health issues.

He previously had seasonal work fruit picking and working on a crayfish boat after dropping out of high school.

The work dried up and Zac says he was getting too comfortable being unemployed.

“I was desperate to get a job.”

He says he lost count of the number of job applications he completed and resumes he delivered.

“What better thing to do than make food that makes people happy?”

Zac’s supervisor Renee de Bruyn said “While Zac still has a long way to go, he has come far in his first three months. He’s settled into the kitchen and knows most of the regular tasks well enough to show people new to the kitchen how to do them. His confidence is growing as well as his interest in food.”

By Paul O’Rourke

More Stories like this…