Canberra might have a reputation as an affluent city, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is well off – or well fed. We visited the Mura Lanyon Community Centre to find out more about its Food Hub program, and why it needs your support to make sure locals don’t go hungry this winter.
It was a cold and wet Thursday afternoon when I visited the Mura Lanyon Community Centre for the first time. The smell of fresh soup told me I’d come to the right place.
I was there to take a look at the Food Hub, which is a pantry-like system that provides free, nutritious foods to people in need in the Tuggeranong area. It’s run by YWCA Canberra and is the only service of its kind this far south.
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While many who use the Food Hub are unemployed or people with disabilities, a growing percentage are working families who have had to choose between paying bills or buying groceries.
Eligible individuals (usually determined by whether visitors hold a concession card or low income card) are permitted to access the Food Hub, which looks like a very small supermarket, once per fortnight. They can collect up to 12 items, which might include bread and milk, fresh fruit and vegetables, breakfast cereals or frozen goods.
YWCA Canberra executive director Frances Crimmins says the service is an entry point for South Tuggeranong families who are genuinely struggling. But there’s more to the program than free groceries.
“Often when people visit they find that they are eligible for other services or support such as discounts on energy bills and employment programs, and this really helps them get their lives back on track. Without our Food Hub, it would be much less likely those connections would be made,” she says.
Around 60-70 people use the Food Hub each week, and this figure is likely to increase as winter progresses. At the same time, federal government funding has fallen by 17 per cent, which means the Food Hub is relying on the generosity of Canberrans to keep the shelves stocked from June to August.
“We know our Food Hub is meeting a genuine need in the community, but with funding cuts we simply can’t keep it going without additional community support,” Frances says.
YWCA Canberra this month launched its annual Fiver4Food appeal, with a goal to raise $10,000 to sustain its emergency food relief service over winter.
The Food Hub also helps to support a weekly soup kitchen at the community centre, which is run by volunteers (pictured above) – many of whom have worked there since its inception in 2012. They make the soup from Food Hub ingredients in their own kitchens every Wednesday. Everything is prepared from scratch, including the stock. This week visitors have a choice between pea and ham soup or leek and potato soup, plus fresh bread rolls.
Anyone can drop in for a free bowl of soup on Thursdays, and there’s a small, indoor area with tables and chairs so that visitors can eat in a safe and warm environment.
If you’d like to support the YWCA Canberra’s Fiver4Food appeal, you can purchase a Shop & Share grocery basket on YWCA Canberra’s website, or host a winter warmer pot-luck event and donate the proceeds.
While the Food Hub doesn’t accept food donations due to client needs and volunteer capacity, all funds raised go directly towards purchasing necessary food and household items to support the project.