The heart is a bloom
Shoots up through the stony ground
‘Beautiful Day’ – U2
It’s a beautiful day. The very first day of spring. Opening day for Addi Road Food Pantry Camperdown.
Jamie Parker, the Greens State Member for Balmain has come down to help cut the ribbon for us and take a good look at what we’re doing. He’s brought a box of free hand-sanitiser bottles that you can clip on to your bag or bike. We have a table set up outside while the final touches are being made inside the store. Free pink-iced donuts from Bob & Pete’s 100% Yum are being handed out while people wait. Jamie puts his donation beside them and the masks we are also giving away. An old man on an overloaded bike stops to get a few donuts and puts them in a bag for later. He knows the brand. And tells us how much he likes the boxes they are in. ‘You can unfold them and put down two together to sleep on. It’s more comfortable on the ground and stops you getting cold.”
Another local, Gaylene Harkin, is here with a bunch of people she has invited along to the opening. Gaylene explains that there are “a lot of low income people in the area”, but she also talks about a whole new cohort since Covid-19 hit. “People in private accommodation are struggling to pay their bills and finding it hard even to pay their mortgage.” Her feeling is that the community is actually getting better as need grows. “I know that sounds like a silly thing to say. But it’s 100% true.” More and more people are in the same situation. And they’re talking to each other more as a result.
The day is full of seemingly contradictory situations like these. Pink donuts beside hand-sanitizer and masks. People who are homeless, or on low incomes finding respite in public housing nearby; people who are apparently better-off, but suddenly more vulnerable than they might have expected since Covid-19 hit. All kinds of people who need a place like this.
Rosanna Barbero, the CEO of Addison Road Community Organisation (ARCO), notes how important Addi Road Food Pantry Camperdown really is “in a time when we are all in this together – but impacted very differently.”
Jamie Parker walks inside. “‘I think it’s awesome what you are doing here.” He says that “Camperdown is right at the heart of my electorate. In this Covid period, in this area especially, and the suburbs all around it, the food security issue has been really highlighted. It’s become critical. We need to be supporting these types of initiatives as much as we can.”
He’s equally aware that big government can incline towards big solutions and top-down funding that does not always get to the community quickly and effectively. Or have an enduring impact in the longer run. Communities have to rally together and take control of what they really need.
As Rosanna takes Jamie around the Addi Road Food Pantry Camperdown, he expresses admiration. “There’s a really good variety of products.” He is also impressed by how the store operates through food rescue, cultivating the support of local business donors as well as customers keen to help the environment and stop perfectly good food from going into landfill.
He quickly grasps the connections between Addi Road’s Food Pantry Camperdown and a host of wrap-around projects in the pipeline. And the true nature of food security and what it means at this difficult time. “It’s about more than food,” Jamie says. “It’s about inspiring people and empowering them.”
Outside, as Jamie prepares to cut the ribbon and declare Addi Road Food Pantry Camperdown officially open, a 470 bus shunts to a stop on Pyrmont Bridge Road and unloads potential customers. Someone in a car toots their horn and shouts out enthusiastically right in the middle of his speech. He jokes about having community support already. And with the same good humour says, “I didn’t just come down here because I was asked to! I came down because Addi Road Food Pantry Camperdown is more than a charity, more than place for affordable food, and even more than somewhere involved with food rescue and food security. It’s about food, yes, but it’s also about awareness and solidarity. It’s about the building blocks for a community. That’s why I’m here.”
Craig Foster, the former SBS commentator and social justice crusader behind the recent #PlayForLives campaign that rallied the sports community nationally, speaks next. He’s been working on this campaign for the last year, using Addi Road as a home base and a test model for his strategic way of thinking when it comes to civic engagement. “Addison Road Community Organisation responded immediately, and in fact ahead of time, to the Covid-19 crisis and the food security issue. We just love what you guys do – and we are here to support you.”
Matt Day, ARCO President, ends the speeches by thanking Jamie Parker and Craig Foster and everyone involved, most of all our volunteers and the customers who work with us to make the whole thing happen.
As Rosanna Barbero made clear: “We’re here to build community, to join the community, to strengthen the community, and to stand in solidarity with the community while providing a basic human right: food security. A hub like Addi Road Food Pantry Camperdown is where a community comes together.”
Addi Road Food Pantry Camperdown
31 Pyrmont Bridge Road, Camperdown
Open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12-4pm
YOU can donate to Addi Road’s food security and food rescue programs here:
David Enderby, Chaplain NSW for Mission Australia, at the opening of Addi Road Food Pantry Camperdown.