Pastor Greg Brown.

The Vine Community Foodcare offers weekly ac- cess to affordable groceries as well as free bread, fruit, vegetables, and selected meats for those in need.

Although the service was originally only available to Centrelink concession card holders as the cost of living rises Gary Brown and the volunteers who run the local Foodcare won’t turn anyone away who needs help.

Vine Church Pastors Gary and Raylene Brown began Vine Community Foodcare, although the not-for-profit is separate from the church.

Gary said they see about 30 to 50 families each week but have 675 members on the books since opening eight years ago.

When Foodcare began they were mainly able to help people on Centrelink concession cards but now simply focus on aiding anyone who is in need.

“If people need help, we can help them,” Gary said. “If you are a young single mum with kids and you’re not on any sort of a card and you’ve got a job and you need food we’ll help you.”

“We’re happy to help anybody.”
Supplies are delivered by Foodbank Australia in

Sydney, along with some contributions from local grocers – Aldi, IGA and Woolworths.

“We do pickups [at local grocers] all the time and all of that is brought in here where we go through everything,” Gary said. “Anything that’s bad is hoicked obviously, or put aside for farmers.”

Co-founder and fellow Vine Church Pastor Raylene Brown said they won’t give anybody anything they wouldn’t eat themselves.

Volunteers sort through donations on a Wednesday morning before another team sets up the shop for Thursday.

“There’s a lot of hurting people out there and we’re not scary, they can come and visit us and become part of our extended family,” Gary said.

Gary and Raylene said they have had many people who were very hesitant about stepping into a Food- care but there’s no judgement here.

“The thing is, they may come through the door with trepidation and then all of a sudden, their faces light up,” Gary said. “They become part of the family and they come back and come back again.”

“The food is fantastic and the service is fantastic but for me, the most important thing is the interaction with the people and helping people.”

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data showed inflation grew 5.1% in the 12 months to March this year. Rising fuel, food and energy prices have people tracking their spending and many are struggling to make rent with welfare recipients hit the hardest.

To cope with the rising cost of living, 867,000 Australians now work two jobs, according to the latest ABS statistics – more than any other time before 1994, when the bureau started.

The cost of living is rising steeply but Gary and Raylene say although everything else is going up, Vine Community Foodcare is still here.

“We’re here and we’re here to help,” Gary said. “We’ve got no agenda, it’s just to help people.”

Yass Valley residents can become a member of Vine Community Foodcare for $4 for two years.

All of the supplies that Foodcare receives from Foodbank Australia are assigned a point value which is worth between 55 to 80 cents.

Raylene explained that the more you buy the less it costs you. Members must spend a minimum of $8 or 10 points on a variety of goods from condiments, pasta, and rice, to hygiene products, and frozen food. After that members receive all their fresh produce – fruits, vegetables, bread, and milk – for free.

“You can walk out of here with $100 worth of food that has cost you $8.”

However, Gary said if people walk into the Foodcare and say they don’t have $2 to spend on groceries then there’s no way they will turn anyone away.

Although the service is provided by Vine Church, Foodcare has a variety of volunteers of different backgrounds keeping it running.

Located at 66 Lead Street, Yass, next to the Park and Ride and opposite Atherfield Medical Centre, Foodcare is open every Thursday from 10 am – 5 pm in winter and 10 am – 6 pm in summer.

If people need help anytime, they can get in touch through Vine Church on (02) 6226 1444 or call Gary direct on 0409 771 712.

Brianna O’Rourke