“The church wanted to do more in hospitality and developed the idea of making community meals for the vulnerable in our local area” says Anne Wilkinson-Hayes, member of Westgate Baptist Church.
In 2018, the opportunity for Westgate Baptist to increase their hospitality reach began with Anne and a team of volunteers initiating collection of food waste from local cafes, greengrocer and more recently, Coles and Woolworths after being alerted to the amount of food being discarded each year.
Anne has had a long-held interest in the social and environmental benefits of food rescue and has been a driving force in helping form Yarraville’s own food rescue group with volunteers from members of Westgate Baptist Church
“When we realised that a big portion of food collected was edible, we wanted to do more”, Anne said. “We have a great relationship with the local cafes, and they are very supportive of what we are trying to do”.
The group initially received a $15,000 grant from Maribyrnong Council enabling them to buy compost bins to compost the rescued food waste and start a community garden.
A further grant (from Baptcare) along with support from the Council and other NFP’s, enabled them to build a commercial kitchen in the church so that volunteers could use some of the food towards free community meals for Karen refugees. Westgate Baptist is home to more than 300 Karen people who call the church home. The food rescue group works closely with the Karen community in conjunction with Pastor Ner Dah (Pastor of the Westgate Karen Baptist Church) who has a passion to help the refugee community. Many of the volunteers are Karen.
In March, the group was about to launch their Rescued Food dinners on Monday nights but in light of COVID-19 restrictions, decided instead to cook rescued food into delicious frozen ready meals (soups, curries, stews) that they made available to friends and neighbours who were sick or in isolation. Since March they have provided over 150 meals for the vulnerable in the community.
As restrictions lift, the plan to is to deliver more community meals to the elderly, the struggling and disadvantaged. The social, environmental and community benefits of this venture are obvious, and Anne and the team have a clear sense of God’s hand leading them as they seek to bless their neighbourhood.