17 April 2023

Berkeley Church embodies gospel of giving with free grocery drive

| Zoe Cartwright
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Volunteers at the free grocery drive in Berkeley. Photo: Joy Lingal.

A free grocery drive that started during COVID is seeing more customers than ever as prices soar.

The drive began when international students were unable to work in lockdown, leaving many with no source of income and no way home.

Members of the International Christian Church in Berkeley went to UoW each week to give food to those who needed it.

As the pandemic continued and need increased, they began doing contactless home deliveries to more than 300 homes.

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Since COVID ended, they continued a monthly free grocery event outside the church in Berkeley, but expected demand to die off.

As inflation and increased mortgage rates eat into more families’ weekly budgets, though, the line at 8 Kelly Street on the second Saturday of each month has only grown.

Coordinator Joy Lingal is from the Philippines and says she never expected to see scenes like this in Australia.

“People get here before we start. We’re open from 9 am to 10 am and people are here from 8 am,” she said.

“We have to run on a first-come, first-served basis because we only have so much, but we make sure nobody leaves without anything, even if that means giving away spare things of our own.

“In the Philippines, we think Australia is the land of milk and honey. I never would have thought this would happen here.”

The grocery drive provides food for about 200 households each month. Most of the food they provide is purchased by the church from Foodbank in Sydney and is supplemented by donations from the community.

At the moment, the church is running sausage sizzles at Bunnings to help fund the groceries, but donations of cash or non-perishable food are always welcome.

The free grocery drive in Berkeley. Photo Joy Lingal.

There are no barriers to picking up some free food.

The drive operates on the assumption that if you’re willing to spend your Saturday morning lining up for free groceries, you probably need them.

“If someone is here, we feed them. That’s a way of showing love to our community,” Joy said.

“We don’t ask if you have a pension card or worry about what kind of car you drive. In Australia, to line up for free food is a hard thing to do. It’s a humbling thing to do, so if you line up, you must need it, and it’s yours.

“Everyone is in a different situation in life, everyone experiences hard times, and we just try our best to help.”

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The drive also provides cleaning products, some children’s items, and a free sausage sizzle run alongside it.

Joy has been part of the program since it began in 2020 and said the volunteers will keep the food drive going for as long as they see a need.

“We are Christian and see this as a way of showing the love of God to people. You can see the joy in their smile,” she said.

“That’s so much more than money. It’s precious. It’s priceless.

“The volunteer team we have is amazing, we all have the same passion for giving, so we just go for gold.”

If you’re in a tight spot, the next free grocery drive will be held at the International Christian Church, 8 Kelly Street Berkeley, on 13 May from 9 am to 10 am.

To help out, contact Joy Lingal via Facebook, or on 0423 522 201.

The church does not have much storage space, so non-perishable food items, cash, or perishable food donated close to the date of the drive are most appreciated.

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