Home cooking: Foodshare finds a base, with council to pay rent for High St shop

By The McIvor Times

THEY’RE the group that keeps on giving, and now they’ve received a bit in return.

Foodshare finally has a home — or a shop — at 76 High St and they’ve got big plans to go with it.

Thanks to the City of Greater Bendigo, the volunteers will be serving up soups and vegetables for at least the next year as council has stepped in to cover the cost of rent.

“They’ve been so helpful, it’s taken a lot of hard work but we’re in,” Foodshare’s Rob Peachey said.

“We’re going to be getting an op shop up and running in here and call it the Second Chance Store — we’re getting bags and bags of donations.”

However they haven’t forgotten their roots — or their leafy greens.

Rob said they plan to house the food outside to keep it crisper.

“It’ll be a Hope Lane setup again, Foodshare will work along the side undercover and we’ll have heaters set up out there so we can have the shop inside,” he said.

“The food stays fresher and looks better outside so we’re going to go back to that.

“We also have the food van out there so we’re going to set up a marquee and have our café outside.

“For the Second Chance Shop we already have change rooms and a little office set up too.”

Things are moving rapidly: Rob plans to have the shop up and running this week and then continue expanding what could be described as a mini-empire.

But he wouldn’t call it that.

“I’d call it juggling,” he laughed.

A load of food comes in and Rob laughed, saying “this is my life, it comes down to boxes of yoghurt”, as he works out what to store, what to deliver and what to display.

But he wouldn’t change a thing. Week in, week out, he and the volunteers are there serving up cuppas and having a chat with the steady stream of locals who come in throughout the day.

They’ve expanded to Axedale, and Rob hopes the group can help out more people in the district.

The Axedale Foodshare came about because a couple of volunteers decided to add vegetables to their mini library in the hall.

“It’s been going for just more than a month now and it’s been really well received — they decided to set one up and it’s been a great effort on their behalf,” Rob said.

“We’re looking at setting up in other areas — even just a day a week — for people who can’t make it into Heathcote.”

Add to this the five mobility scooters — which are being repaired and readied for anyone who needs to borrow one — and they’re a busy bunch.

“It’s about helping people out when they’re in a tight spot; we’ll loan them out for a while because they aren’t cheap for people to buy,” he said.

“And it wouldn’t make sense buying one if you don’t always need it.”

The volunteers definitely are busy, and Rob said they could always use more help coming into winter.

“We’re going to need more people to run the shop through the week and we’re also planning home visits for people who may not be able to make it down to us,” he said.

“We’re seeing about 300 people a week through but we’re expecting that to increase coming into winter.

“We need more supermarkets to come on board. The United service station and Sigafredo’s Bakery have been an amazing support, giving us the day’s pies, sandwiches and bread — it’s been terrific.”

The profits from the shop will stay in the district, and Rob said the group is all about people.

“People just want an outing so they can speak to someone — the brick wall at home isn’t the best company.

“It was about food but now it’s about people, they can come down here, have a chat, grab some food and a cuppa and sit by the heaters.”

The biggest change since Foodshare moved has been the decision to stop a ‘main’ food delivery day and just offer up whatever they have.

The group also decided to open six days a week from Monday-Saturday, something which Rob said has proved fruitful.

“Saturday really has been a game changer for us, we had about 70 people come through — most of them working families who can’t come see us through the week,” he said.

“There were a lot of faces we hadn’t seen before.”