St Benedict's seeks food security

THE volunteers at St. Benedict's Community Day Centre in Queanbeyan feed Queanbeyan's neediest citizens for free every day. However coordinator Elaine Lollback says she's concerned new changes to the charity food delivery service, The Yellow Van, will result in food being wasted and not getting to needy local households.

St Benedict's volunteers Annette Stace, Robbie Leahy and coordinator Elaine Lollback prepare lunch at the Queanbeyan community centre.

St Benedict's volunteers Annette Stace, Robbie Leahy and coordinator Elaine Lollback prepare lunch at the Queanbeyan community centre.

St Benedict's - a cooperative effort by from a coalition of Queanbeyan's Christian churches- made some 12,000 meals last year, largely compiled from food delivered for free by The Yellow Van, administered by Communities at Work.

However a restructure of the Yellow Van service set for July will charge charity groups an annual membership fee, while also cutting out some of the smaller collection points. It will also ask many of the 90 charities it services to collect their food from depots in Tuggeranong and Gungahlin rather than continuing to receive deliveries from the vans.

That won't be the case for St Benedict's, who will continue to have food delivered by the Yellow Van. Nor is the $30 annual subscription fee prohibitive. But St Benedict's coordinator Elaine Lollback said there was a lack of consultation in how the changes were communicated, which could lead to missed cooperation between agencies, and see less food collected locally.

"We haven't been consulted- we've been told that this is the way it's going to be... My concern is that food could go from Queanbeyan to Canberra and then back out," Ms Lollback said.

"We understand they have to cover costs, and I have no problem with that.

"What we're concerned about is a lack of transparency and a lack of accountability. In the community sector especially, we really believe in working together. I can't tell Communities at Work how to run their business, but if they worked with us, they'd get so much more [in efficiencies] I feel."

However Communities at Work deputy CEO Lee Maiden said the changes to the Yellow Van program were relatively minor, and would and make it more cost effective.

"We just have to make it more sustainable. It's very expensive to run…so we needed to tweak our model to one that's a lot more efficient and cost effective," Ms Maiden said.

A restructuring of collection points to focus on bigger food providers, while putting smaller, less regular donators in contact with nearby charities was one necessary change, she said.

"What was happening with some of the little stops we were doing- the analysis we did showed about 44 per cent of our activity was rescuing less than 5pc of the food. So that's why we tweaked that."

*If you're experiencing financial difficulty in Queanbeyan and need a meal, visit St Benedict's Community Day Centre at 284 Crawford Street, Queanbeyan (next to HOME in Queanebyan) or phone 6297 5331.

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