Tenants making a difference: Community led food co-op comes to Mittagong

May 29, 2015 @ 5:31pm

When one our tenants asked us to help them spread the word about a new food co-op in the Southern Highlands we were more than happy to and jumped at the chance to get on board.

The weekly food co-op offers a range of quality groceries for a fraction of the retail price. A much welcomed service and benefit to local people.  As food costs continue to increase, the food co-op provides an opportunity to combat this and get on top of weekly bills.

This service is available to families who have a Centrelink card and they will simply need to show this on the day to be able to purchase from the co-op.

Held each Thursday from 9.30am – 12.30pm at the Highlands Christian Church, 37 Regent St Mittagong. Parking is available on site. For more information and to advise that you are coming feel free to call Karen on 0423 428 668.

Megan, our Tenancy Action Worker for the local area, took the opportunity last week to interview our tenant Daniel who volunteers each week for this great new initiative.

M: How did your involvement with Soul Warmers & S.W.A.G come about?

D: My wife and I were at a community dinner at Southern Highlands Christian School, when it was time to go home everyone got a fruit and veg box, in that there was a flyer for Soul Warmers. We kept on forgetting that it was on. Jody went by herself and mentioned that we were interesting in to starting a Food Co-op to Karen (Manager). 6 weeks later we opened the doors to our first local Food Co-op May 7th 2015 9.30am.

M: What is Soul Warmers and S.W.A.G?

D: Soul Warmers is the café part that has been going for the past two years. They provide coffee, tea, cakes from Gumnut patisserie, Highlands Fresh supply the fruit and Donut King also recently joined.

They serve the homeless people from Sydney to Liverpool. Going to a different area each night. Providing food, drinks, clothing, blankets and sometimes pay it forward hotel rooms from one night to 3 nights, this is all done with donations and volunteers.

About once a month S.W.A.G Ministries will becoming to the Southern Highlands to do a street M.E.A.T. The meat is donated by SNAX on TRAX and have been dropping of non perishable food

M: Why did you approach Karen to start a food co-op?

D: We used to get food from SHCS. I was asked too overlook it for a while but the SHCS ended up closing due to lack of consumers. After a while we found out there was one at Shellharbour, Warrawong and North Nowra but not one in the Southern Highlands.

We found the one at Shellharbour to be the best of them. It was very popular and self service, food packed on tables, pick out what you need, free fruit, veg and bread. Some products had a limit of how many you can buy. Most of the time it was the limit of how much money you had to spend. They were open 2 days a week (Thursday & Friday), the Thursday being the popular day.

We knew it would work in the Southern Highlands and that the community needed it.

M: What set up/work is required each week bring it to life?

D: Friday is ordering day. After 3.30pm the ordering list is updated. This can take around 1HR or more

Tuesday the order arrives, this gets taken inside by hand as there is no room for the pallets to get through the door. Approximately 3hrs or more depending on how many volunteers turn up.

Wednesday is packing 50 hampers, this is also a time consuming as we need to make sure all the hampers have the same. We have a swap table set up so if a client doesn’t like or eat that product they can swap for something else( 1 for 1). Wednesday night 5.30 pick up donuts, very generous people about 25 donuts each week

Thursday morning clients come in 9am refreshments ready, fill out membership forms if not already signed up. Photocopy membership form and concession card. Get given a number so there is no jumping in front.

Thursday 9.30 ready to sell hampers, selling right through until 12.30pm.

M: If any, what type of extra help would be welcomed from individuals interested in lending a hand? How do they get in touch?

We definitely require more help and could do with volunteers from Tuesday 11.30 onwards to help put the load away, Wednesday 10am to help fill the hampers. Thursday 8.30 if able help carry hampers to cars or walk around and just talk to people or help on the kitchen.

Volunteers are welcome can purchase hampers too!

Karen is the person in charge 0423 428 668 and the best person to contact to get involved.

M: Can local businesses help in anyway – donations, products etc?

Yes we would like to have any local businesses to help if they can, at the moment we are doing pantry food, but later on we will be buying freezers and fridges. We are more than happy to do a shout out on our Facebook page as recognition of their donation.


As you can see from the photos, a lot of work goes into bringing this food co-op to life each week. Thank you to Daniel, Karen and everyone else who volunteers each week to drive this  great initiative.

A true example of those who are building a better future for our communities.

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