It’s Wednesday lunchtime and the tables at the Mullumbimby and District Neighbourhood Centre are covered in plates of delicious vegetable pot pie.
About 80 hungry locals are tucking in, chatting happily as bowls of dessert begin to emerge from the kitchen.
It’s hard to believe that just three years ago, the only food you could get at the centre was a white-bread jaffle and a cup of coffee.
Since then it has become a hub for healthy, nutritious food that feeds hundreds of people across the region every month by providing free meals at the Neighbourhood Centre and frozen meals that go to other centres across the region.
But good food isn’t free and, despite regular generous donations from residents and local businesses, the programs have no grant funding and cannot continue without an external source of support.
That’s where Hub Grub comes in. It’s a community catering business set up by two of the centre’s community development workers to raise funds so the programs can stay alive.
‘Hub Grub provides tasty, simple, really good quality food for events at a lower price than the average cost of commercial catering,’ says one of Hub Grub’s founders, Mel Williams.
‘It’s just good, wholesome food done well without the exorbitant price tag. It’s all cooked with love because everyone believes in it and many of those involved are volunteers.’
Since launching late last year, Hub Grub has begun to gather momentum, providing food for the local ‘UnFuck the World’ event, a tiny house expo and a number of council events.
The manager of the centre, Julie Williams, is hopeful that the program will grow to a point where it can become a training ground for locals looking for work.
The centre is also part of a food-recovery program, collecting tonnes of perfectly good but unwanted food from Coles supermarkets.
This produce is not used as part of the Hub Grub catering service.
‘It’s perfectly good food that was destined for landfill but is now used for meals,’ Ms Williams says.
‘We’ve reused 21 tonnes since last August. We’re doing what we’re doing because we believe that people deserve, at least, to have a decent feed.’