September 25, 2017

Liberation Larder Inc. The Story So Far…

In the beginning a Buddhist nun, The Venerable Honu Dawson came to Byron Bay & recognized there were many people here struggling to make ends meet.

She could see a generous spirit in our community & many people prepared to lend a hand. Honu recognized people needed food & that huge amounts of good food from our homes, farms & businesses was ending up in landfill.

So on 1 May 2009 Liberation Larder Inc, Byron Shire’s Food Rescue Food Lifeline Service opened for business. The beginning was humble Honu invited people & businesses from the community who had any excess food to bring it to Byron Community Centre & each Thursday at 4 pm she invited local people who needed food to come & take what they needed, no questions asked & a small donation if they could afford it. It wasn’t long before a group of women from Suffolk Park was making nutritious casseroles & other wholesome food to distribute.

This service was a lifeline for many people. The numbers were small at first 20, 40 people …… Gradually it grew & needed a base where food could be stored, prepared & served. In partnership with Byron Community Centre Liberation Larder moved into the Fletcher Street kitchen. A fledgling lunch service started two days a week run by Honu with a small band of volunteers. Honu knocked on many doors in those early days & her persistence meant regular food donations began to the service. Honu has since moved on to other Buddhist pursuits but her vision was instrumental in guiding Liberation Larder.

Today, eight years later the problems of food insecurity & food waste are still a challenge in our community. Liberation Larder has 60+ volunteers who are always on the move growing, sourcing, collecting, cooking & distributing food to those in need. They each take on different roles including food pickup drivers, collectors, kitchen crew, home bakers, home deliveries, gardeners, fundraisers, social media & coordinators.

In the past year, volunteers have provided over 500 meals, 100 bags of fresh produce & 20 home-delivered boxes every week to people in our community. Liberation Larder has extended its service to four days a week, two in Byron Bay & two in Brunswick Heads. Volunteers provide a delivery service to people who are housebound. In addition, our volunteer gardeners provide 20-40 kgs of staple vegetables each week for the kitchen to prepare meals.

On any given day we can have up to 80 people arrive for breakfast at the Byron Bay service & 40 at the Brunswick Heads service. There are some regulars & new faces every day. At breakfast we see people who are sleeping rough, sleeping in their cars, on their way to work, early risers or nowhere to go to feel safe. Liberation Larder volunteers see people who have mental health issues, drug dependency issues, lost a job, struggle to survive on a fixed income, choose to live without financial assistance, have a business in trouble, struggle to put food on the table for their family or are the working poor.

Over the years there has been a lot of juggling. Initially, Liberation Larder did not have enough donated food or financial support to provide well for everyone who needed the service. So we did the best we could & looked for more opportunities to source excess food. In casting our net wider our sponsors have grown. We have become the charity of choice for the major festivals, Falls, Splendour & Blues, volunteers collect food donations every day from the Farmers Market, wholesale & retail businesses, cafes & restaurants in our area. The Farm has provided Liberation Larder with an acre patch to grow organic vegetables. Finally, as our social media skills have developed more people have found out about our work & donations have increased.

There are lots of exciting challenges & opportunities ahead & we invite everyone to join us.

Helen Hamilton – President

Direct to Liberation Larder