7th July 2020

Hard lockdown – BUV churches together on mission

This week’s hard lockdown of the Kensington and Flemington public housing estates has not stopped the People’s Pantry from their mission.  The Flemington People’s Pantry is a food rescue and redistribution project run by, and for members of the Flemington/ Kensington and Ascot Vale public housing estate communities.  The Wednesday program is an activity of the People’s Place: Newmarket, a faith community of Essendon Baptist Community Church who seek to build community connections by initiating and supporting various local food initiatives. The programme has been operating since 2009 and they are committed to being in the community for the long haul, well after the immediacy of the current lockdown situation has passed. 

A diverse group of local volunteers experiencing under/unemployment, order, collect and redistribute 1 to 1.5 tonnes of food to 75-100 households each Wednesday, in a festive, multi-cultural, multi-faith, ‘food swap’ environment.

Participants register over tea and coffee from 12.30pm in the old Newmarket Baptist Church Sanctuary in Flemington.  After the ballot is drawn at 2pm, participants choose a hamper of food from fresh fruit and vegetables, fridge and frozen, dry goods, milk and bread between 2 -3.30pm.

The People’s Pantry partners with other agencies to provide volunteer work for asylum seekers; people experiencing mental illness or intellectual disability, and under/unemployment.  The Pantry exists to redeem waste, share food and work, dispel loneliness, reconnect neighbours, celebrate difference and subvert the status quo! The People’s Pantry is also a registered charity agency of Foodbank Victoria.

Although most of the volunteers and participants and are in lockdown, and they cannot deliver food to the estates, Rev Marcus Curnow, Pastor of the Newmarket campus of Essendon Baptist Community Church, says those who are still able to, will continue to deliver food door to door to the vulnerable who are in immediate and surrounding suburbs that are currently under the Government’s Stage 3 stay at home restrictions. 

During the emergency lockdown this week, Marcus reveals that Foodbank Victoria were delivering bulk hampers through the night and that two of the agencies partnering with The People’s Pantry (Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and STR-EAT), have been contracted to provide catering for those in hard lockdown. “Although this immediate need is being funded by the Government, these agencies are both not for profits who we work with in ongoing ways to deliver food locally.”

Another of our churches, West Melbourne Baptist, is in partnership with the Hotham Mission and well before this emergency, has had food going into high rise towers every week.  Rev Geoff Pound, Pastor at West Melbourne Baptist Church, says “Our focus during COVID-19 has been supplying food to 60-70+ asylum seeker families as they have been hit the hardest. Their casual work dried up fast and they are not eligible for JobKeeper or any Centrelink payment. Many have gone hungry.”

Geoff points out that during this sudden lockdown, the high-rise towers in Kensington and Flemington are getting lots of media attention and plenty of help.  “The Sikhs are cooking each day and with the help of police and DHHS, are delivering 1325 meals.  The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre are delivering hot meals. There are long lines of cars on Boundary Road with people delivering supermarket bags of food.” According to Geoff, right now, they are getting overwhelmed with too many groups helping. What will be important is the ongoing support of the many vulnerable people living in these areas after the media attention has diminished.

If you would like to help, here are some practical things you can do:   

  1. Prayer – First and foremost please Pray:
    1. Pray for the pantry volunteers and participants who are locked in… and out  
    2. Pray for those who have contracted COVID-19 in the community – for speedy recovery, health and safety
    3. Pray for Essendon Baptist Community Church members and leaders – those who are locked in, those who are police and those who are part of the welfare response; that they may be able to bear witness to Christ’s love
    4. Pray that the Government and agencies can provide food and emergency relief quickly and efficiently
    5. Pray for peace and unity – that the people in lockdown can move beyond outrage, fear and criticism.
    6. Pray for a deeper spiritual awareness and transformation of the painful systemic issues of race, human rights, economic poverty and the need for accessible affordable and adequate housing that this moment exposes.


  1. Give
    1. For immediate donations of food, please contact Foodbank Victoria or make a donation here
    2. The People’s Pantry (run by Essendon Baptist Community Church Newmarket campus) has been and will continue to be committed to this community for the long term.  If you would like to support the  ongoing weekly local work of delivering  1.5 tonnes of food to 100 local families from the estates as things open back up after the immediate emergency, you can donate to The People’s Pantry, through Essendon Baptist Community Church.  Bank details are as follows.

      Bank: Baptist Financial Services
      Account Name: Essendon Baptist Community Church
      BSB: 704922
      Account Number: 100005342
      Reference: The Peoples Pantry

    3. The West Melbourne Baptist Church will also distribute food – you can donate for this specific group. Bank details are:

The West Melbourne Baptist Church
BSB: 033132
Account: 960004
Reference: Hard lockdown donation

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