Lomandra Community Project is a lifeline for an entire community.
With many local families and community members experiencing financial stress and hardship, Lomandra, based in Leumeah in Macarthur region of south-western Sydney, provides free hampers of food and essentials, daily meals to 25 local schools, emergency food support and low cost meals from their community pantry to those experiencing food insecurity.
Every week, Lomandra Community Liaison officer Audrey Nable, Lomandra staff and the volunteers coordinate and distribute 5000kg of food and essentials provided by Woolworths Group’s partners and food rescue organisations such as Foodbank - as well as daily donations from local Woolworths stores - to more than 2000 people.
For many, this community pantry is their only access to nutritious food and essentials.
“There are many financial stresses at the moment - mortgage and rental stresses, fuel, insurances - just day-to-day living expenses are so high. Many families are working but still can’t make ends meet.
“These donations are so important as we are able to distribute to those in need to alleviate some of the pressures. Everybody has a story. We are here to support without judgement.”
The organisation was first set up by the Lomandra School 12 years ago to ensure the students had access to nutritious food to positively influence their academic performance and help create a better learning environment.
Lomandra still feeds the students from the food donations three times during their school day, and offers weekly support to 24 other schools.
Four years ago, the organisation moved from the school to their current location at Leumeah and became the Lomandra Community Project, opening their onsite food pantry four days per week to anyone who needs a helping hand.
As well as the ample free fruit and vegetables, baked goods and meat, Lomandra also offers essentials - they have paid for - at a fraction of the regular retail cost.
Local beneficiary Fay shops at the pantry weekly and then makes bulk meals to distribute to neighbours and community members who are unable to get to the pantry or those who might be doing it tough that week.
“The pantry means so much to the community,” says Fay. “This is the only food a lot of families have access to. Without it, they wouldn't eat. Audrey and the staff and volunteers are very non-judgemental and really care about people in need.”
Mother-of-five Rachel Kingi, who is studying a diploma of business, relies heavily on the free fruit, vegetables, bread and other staples from the pantry to feed her children aged 19, 16, 12, 11 and seven.
“I try my best every single day but there is just not enough money or food to go around,” she says. “Lomandra is life-changing for me and my family.”