The Taree Community Kitchen provides assistance to vulnerable members of the Taree and Manning Community regardless of their age, gender, physical and intellectual capacity, religion or ethnicity.
It serves free meals five days a week, Monday to Friday, between noon and 1pm. On average, about 21 meals are served each day of operation, but the kitchen offers far more than food.
With the assistance of volunteers, CatholicCare has created a space where people can feel safe and enjoy the company of others. The kitchen is a potential outreach opportunity for disadvantaged people to access other services via information and referral.
“The kitchen has been a real blessing for our school community, with all the students and staff involved surprised at what they have gained from their time there,” says Denise Ryan Ministry Coordinator at St Clare’s.
“We knew that we were contributing to the Taree community as a whole and felt excited about that. It is, however, one of those precious things where you receive far more than you give.
“Volunteering at the kitchen gives students the opportunity to confront injustice in their own community and learn about homelessness, poverty and marginalisation, and realise that we are all human beings who need relationships with others.
“To cook and serve a meal for people is a basic yet wonderful response to the problems in rural communities,” she says.
After spending time at the kitchen, students hold important conversations in their classrooms asking questions such as: Who are the people we’ve just fed?; where do they sleep?; why are they homeless or marginalised?; why do we have so few shelters?; what do they need?; and what does it feel like to do Jesus’ work?”
The volunteering experience is proving to have a lasting impact on the students who often ask: “Why can’t I do this every day and when can I come back?”