Soul food delivers purpose and care

Decrease font size
Increase font size
Print this page
Email to friend
Share to Facebook
Share to Twitter
Home > Media > News > Soul food delivers purpose and care
Soul food delivers purpose and care

A desire to put excess food to good use, and an initiative to engage school staff, has led to a COVID-inspired outreach in Hobart’s northern suburbs.

For years Fr Suresh GnanaPragash, parish priest of Claremont, has asked if he can take any excess food from St Virgil’s College’s functions to distribute to those in need.

When the college decided to embark on a meal outreach to give staff something practical to take part in while most students were learning from home, it was a perfect opportunity to connect with Fr Suresh and reach out to the local Claremont Parish community.

Since the beginning of May, staff have booked themselves in for cooking sessions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to make a variety of meals including spaghetti Bolognese, macaroni cheese, beef stew and curry, along with soup and desserts.

Julia Denniss, head of the Design and Technology Department, and also the VET Coordinator at St Virgil’s College says the initiative serves a dual purpose: reaching those in need and contributing to staff wellbeing.

Trudi Baer, the learning support officer for food technology, has been coordinating the effort.

Not only teachers, but payroll and administration staff, as well as the college’s business manager, the principal’s personal secretary and the canteen manager have all taken a turn at cooking meals.

“Each week we’d probably have at least five or six staff that come in. I know one staff member comes in on her day off,” Mrs Denniss said.

Another part-time staff member cooks when she’s not scheduled to be working.

“She actually said she had been wanting to do some volunteering for a long time and hadn’t had the opportunity to do something and this provided her with a perfect way to do that,” Mrs Denniss said.

She says the food delivery is “a little bit like Fr Suresh’s personal ‘meals on wheels’”.

“It’s really the perfect example of the parish community and the school being part of the parish community. Whilst St Virgil’s is not next door to the church, Fr Suresh certainly comes into the school on a regular basis,” she said.

“He’s got a good understanding of his parish. Because of that really wonderful understanding of his parish and the needs of his parishioners, he’s been great in terms of meeting their basic needs.”

Most of those who receive the meals are Claremont parishioners. Around a third have been referred to Fr Suresh through friends.

Some are families, while others are older people who are alone, or for whom shopping has been difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All the meals are delivered personally by Fr Suresh, who calls his food distribution ‘soul food delivery’.

He says that the food outreach is an example of the staff doing something to meet the community’s needs, and is putting into practice the spirit of the college ‘By deeds, not words alone’.

“This is an example of how [the parish and the college] can work together,” he said.

“We can do things as a Catholic community.”

Photo: Fr Suresh GnanaPragash with parishioner Maureen Dawes, for whom the meals have meant she could remain safer at home during COVID-19.