National Convention Center Canberra and OzHarvest Active in the Social Role

27th Aug, 2021

The nation's capital convention centre and Australia’s leading food rescue organisation are helping to keep food on the tables of those in need during lockdown. 

While the National Convention Centre Canberra (NCCC) has had to close its doors to the public as part of lockdown restrictions in the ACT, the meetings and conferencing venue is keeping the kitchens open to help ensure Canberrans in need don’t go hungry.

OzHarvest Canberra has engaged NCCC to cook 500 individually-sealed meals per week for the foreseeable future to ensure those in the community who are unable to put food on the table have access to a healthy and nourishing meal.

OzHarvest is the country’s biggest food rescue organisation, diverting food that would otherwise go to waste to feed people in need. OzHarvest Canberra supplies food to 64 agencies and charities, who deliver meals to those who need them most.

The onset of COVID-19 saw a drastic increase in demand for food relief in the Canberra and Queanbeyan region. But COVID-19 restrictions can not only close down many of the businesses OzHarvest regularly rescues food from, but also means higher customer demands on supermarkets which leads to less excess food donated to OzHarvest.

In response, OzHarvest Canberra partnered with NCCC in 2020 to launch the Cooked Meals Pilot Program to support the local community, and this week they’ve relaunched the program once again.

Each week, 500 individual meals are prepared by the NCCC chefs on-site in the NCCC kitchen, and are then picked up by the OzHarvest van.

“During COVID restrictions, there’s a higher demand on our food, and there’s a reduction in the normal supply chain to the shopfronts and farmers that we normally rescue food from. So it puts us in a really tough situation. And when people are out of employment or are financially in tough positions, they rely on us for food,” said Belinda Barnier, Canberra City Manager at OzHarvest.

“We’re very grateful to the National Convention Centre Canberra. We don’t have a kitchen and we don’t have a workforce, so it’s the perfect partnership, and it gives us the ability to deliver to people in need.”

The chef-prepared, home-style meals are made with fresh produce, with a range of dishes including pasta, curries, stews and vegetables. Ordinarily, the kitchen team is used to catering for events, from intimate dinners through to conferences and gala dinners, and NCCC executive chef Nikhil Jain said meal recipients can expect the same high quality of food that event guests enjoy.

Mr Jain said they are proud to support such an important community initiative, and the project is also beneficial for the kitchen team at a time when the kitchen would usually be closed.

“We know there are plenty of people doing it tough, so we are proud to be able to prepare high quality, nourishing meals to support people in the community,” he said.

“At the same time, it means that everyone in our kitchen team is getting around two shifts a week, which is great for everyone’s mental health.”

NCCC, which is part of IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), has supported OzHarvest for 14 years in the areas of food sustainability, food insecurity and hospitality skills investment, and all excess food from their event catering is donated to the organisation.

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