Stretching the food budget further
MORE than 1800 Maryborough households rely on the FoodBasket to help make their grocery budgets stretch.
Last week the shop celebrated its 10th birthday with free produce and cake.
Pastor Rob Simpson said the shop was launched by LifeChurch in 2008 with the aim to help those who needed it the most.
More than 15 tonnes of groceries and produce are moved through the FoodBasket each week supplying to 7500 men, women and children.
Since its opening, Agnes Cross has jumped on her scooter every Wednesday to do her shopping where she knows she's getting a bargain.
She said it was a coincidence she was riding past on the day it opened and thought to have a look.
What she found was cheap groceries and friendly staff.
"It's a huge saving," Ms Cross said. "You can get a fair go here and they always help me with my groceries to the bike.
"I have got no complaints as long as they keep going."
Manager Mick Wait said demand had led to the FoodBasket now being open five days a week.
He said it dealt directly with 1800 households through the shop - 5000 adults and 2500 children.
"Indirectly we provide to eight schools for their school breakfast program, the Salvation Army soup kitchen and give emergency relief to approximately 1000 families per year - free food and toiletry items.
"We also deal through a group of agencies like Act For Kids, Salvation Army and community housing and a couple of churches that we sell vouchers to them at a reduced price for them to then hand out to people that they believe are in need.
"Those vouchers can then be used in store.
"It allows us to help by selling them at a reduced rate - we cop an amount of that cost but it means we aren't just giving it away ourselves - it also means we are outsourcing the admin work of that. Nothing costs us nothing here."
Mr Wait said the food club received some things free but there were still transport costs.
"So at the moment we are doing five trips to Brisbane in a six-pallet truck and are currently looking to raise funds for a new 10-pallet truck which we are expecting to cost us around $150,000.
"We are looking at various sources to fundraise for that. We have secured a grant from the Federal Government just shy of $18,000.
"That really helps but doesn't cover the cost. We haven't locked anything else in yet.
"We are really pushing our little truck - we bought it new seven years ago and it has done half a million kilometres. It is time to move on from that - something bigger."
Pastor Rob said the FoodBasket grew fairly quickly after it was started on October 10, 2008.
"Because we didn't exist, people kind of jumped right in," he said. Within the first year we came close to hitting 1000 families."
Membership is $5 and available to those who hold a Centrelink card.
"We don't do the work on identifying whether you are eligible or not based on any criteria other than the fact the government has already done that work and determined whether you are eligible for a welfare card of some kind," Pastor Rob said.
"Most people save the $5 membership in their first shop."
Mr Wait said his sister-in-law did a comparison with the major supermarkets.
"She came in and bought $50 worth of groceries to feed her five children, and when she got home she laid it all out on the table and said there's a lot of food here, I wonder what it would cost elsewhere.
"She went online and priced out as close as she could, brand-for-brand, all of the items she had, and I think it was about $170 worth.
"That is an idea of how much we can save people on their fortnightly shop."
Pastor Rob said the shop did not have everything but attempts were made to supply a variety of grocery items including fresh produce, dairy and bread.
"People in the community really appreciate what we do and the whole mindset of what is happening here, so they are really willing to become a part of it and donate. "We have gotten pallet loads of sweet potatoes from Bundaberg where the grower has had to deal with it raining at the wrong time, they have split or oversized.
"We have received pallet loads of gourmet tomatoes and there is nothing wrong with them.
"Instead of the farmers tipping them out for the animals or ploughing them back into the soil they give them to us. Our wastage goes to a farmer - not excess but anything that may have gone bad - will go to feed their sheep or cattle."
School chaplain Jason Erbacher for Sunbury School and Aldridge High said he really appreciated the FoodBasket helping for the breakfast clubs he runs.
"The FoodBasket supplies the bread and milk and other breakfast items. Once a week at each of the schools we provide a light breakfast with a piece of toast, a glass of milk or Milo.
"Some of the interesting comments from parents is my children don't eat wholegrain breads but I tell them it's a special wholegrain brekkie club so it's okay. It is not just the food or feeding the kids for the sake of feeding them - it is a great aspect of it - but it is also a social time."
At 300 Kent St, Maryborough, open from 9am-4pm Monday, Tuesday, Friday and 9am-6pm Tuesday and Wednesday.
For more information phone 0411 673 683, visit Facebook or http://life-church.org.au/ community/.