As budget pressures continue to bite, St Matthew’s Church in Manly and Anglicare are jointly running a mobile community pantry that offers low-cost groceries for those doing it tough across the Beaches, and seeing new faces arrive in need of support.
The pantry operates every Monday afternoon out of a van at the Church entrance, allowing shoppers to come in between 3.30pm and 5pm via the Corso and collect a bag’s worth of groceries for $12. An entry from Darley St is also available.
Customers can choose from sets of shelves that carry key staples like pasta, rice, sauce, coffee, and milk, as well as a weekly rotating selection of snack items like chocolate and biscuits. The Church also accepts donations to cover the cost of people’s bags.
Volunteers from St Matt’s staff a refreshments stall nearby and help pack bags with produce that is driven every week from Anglicare’s warehouse of donated bulk goods in Villawood.
“The invitation to have afternoon tea and coffee is a good way for our volunteers to connect with members of the community and see how they are getting on,” says Diana Aitken, the Soup Kitchen Coordinator at St Matt’s.
St Matt’s has aligned the pantry hours with that of their 5,30 to 7pm dine-in Soup Kitchen, offering meals that are particularly of use to those who don’t have access to a kitchen to cook for themselves.
The Street Side Medic also runs between 5 and 7pm, where those finding it challenging to make and keep appointments with doctors can get seen just around the corner on Darley Road.
Week after week, more people have been turning up to the Corso on Monday nights, as other areas struggle to meet a higher demand for such services.
Since COVID, a whole new population has been seeking a buffer from economic hardship, according to Diana.
“Many are just faces we’ve never seen before,” she told the Manly Observer.
“People are travelling in from out of the area, because they know we offer a sit down service [on Mondays] and because of the sense of community we’ve been developing over the years.”
Despite the restrictions of the COVID lockdowns, St Matt’s Soup Kitchen managed to still operate, cooking packed meals in a commercial kitchen across the road at the Novotel to handing them out from a van.
“We were in a whole new environment, everywhere was out of action,” Diana said.
“I can’t even believe we did it. But we did, we made it work.”
Diana believes the resilience and consistency of St Matt’s and their volunteers will help support the community as times get tough again for families across the beaches.
“Since it [the Mobile Community Pantry] began earlier this year, it’s been well received by those who’ve come, and more are beginning to come as word of mouth spreads.”
Where St Matthews Anglican Church Manly, 1 Darley Road (The church on the Corso)
When: 3.30pm-5pm every Monday
Contact 9977 6249 firstname.lastname@example.org