Lifehouse Pantry fills a need

Lifehouse Pantry Team … (left to right) Jenni Bienefelt, Janine Harrison, volunteers Laurell Woolhouse and Kellie Small and Lifehouse general manager, Luke Alcock.
Lifehouse Pantry Team … (left to right) Jenni Bienefelt, Janine Harrison, volunteers Laurell Woolhouse and Kellie Small and Lifehouse general manager, Luke Alcock.

It’s ironic that while many businesses in Bellingen are struggling, one of the more successful is servicing those most in need.

The Lifehouse Pantry has been operating for a couple of months from behind the Vintage coffee café and clothing outlet in Hyde Street, but already it has over 120 people on its books. Proceeds from the coffee and clothing shop are supporting the Pantry.

Up to 50 people come into the Pantry on Fridays to pick up ‘free’ food. It’s for those in the local community who a struggling to make ends meet.

“They are mostly welfare recipients, low-income earners or those facing a short-term financial crisis due to mortgage stress,” said Janine Harrison, the Pantry Manager. “There are going to be people who abuse the system, but we would rather help everyone than knock-back someone who might not be so needy.”

“They receive $10 or $20 vouchers that entitle them to 11 or 22 items of food, plus fruit and vegetables,” Ms Harrison said.

One single mother with three children told the Courier-Sun that the Pantry had been a real saviour for her. “Prior to their help, my kids were going without meals towards the end of the welfare fortnight.”

The goods are supplied to the Pantry by Food Bank NSW, a large not-for-profit organisation, which in turn is supplied by the big supermarkets. “The goods might surplus stock or items past their best-by date.”

“We also order in some items we know are in needed, such as nappies, pasta, cereal and baked beans,” she said. “Fruit and veges are in big demand.”

Jenni Bienefelt will head up the Pantry in coming weeks when Janine Harrison moves to Newcastle.

“I would like to tap into the local market for supplies, such as local fruit and vege growers with excess stock or local supermarkets that have stock they no longer need,” Mrs Bienefelt said. “We are also looking for bigger premises; the present local is very cramped and not ideal, so if anyone knows of a more suitable venue, please contact me at the Vintage Cafe.”