During the past eigh years, Tatura group Manna Free Community Meals has grown to the point where it provides 1300 meals a year.By Tammy Mills
In the Bible, the food miraculously provided for the Israelites during their flight from Egypt was deemed ‘‘manna’’ — food from heaven.
Once a week for the past eight years, the lonely and the poor found their own ‘‘manna’’ in Tatura.
Manna Free Community Meals provides up to 1300 meals a year at the Anglican Church.
It began with only two people on its first night eight years ago and has grown to feed between 30 and 40 each week.
It began because of Robyn Stone’s dream.
The Tatura woman grew up in a house where her grandmother and mother would invite people off the street to share their nightly meal.
‘‘It’s something I always thought was normal,’’ Mrs Stone said.
She recognised a need to comfort isolated people in her town and, with fellow Anglican Church member and friend Sandra Clough, started Manna.
Mrs Stone said they fed families, single mums and pensioners. Their youngest customer is 10 years old.
Their rule is no judgement and Mrs Stone said the meals had gone beyond the food of corned beef, spaghetti or chicken schnitzels. She talks about an elderly man who came up to her one night.
‘‘It’s so nice just to sit down and talk with somebody,’’ he told her.
Often people stay well after meals are finished, just talking.
‘‘There’s a real buzz — all the conversation around the table,’’ Mrs Clough said.
Manna has received a number of boosts in the past three years. The small kitchen with the temperamental stove that was once used to cook Christmas dinner for 70 has been replaced with a brand new kitchen through funding.
A school in Shepparton has begun sending students there to help as part of their work experience program.
But one of the biggest supports has been from the Community Fund Goulburn Valley.
The local foundation that supports local causes has funded Manna for the past seven years.
The foundation announced recently it would fund another $4000 so the program could keep running for the next 12 months.
‘‘They’re wonderful,’’ Mrs Stone said.
‘‘We wouldn’t exist without them.’’
That $4000 is pinched and pulled so much it can fund up to 1300 meals — under $3 a meal.
Mrs Stone and Mrs Clough stood in the new kitchen — their ‘‘pride and joy’’ — with the new industrial, and not temperamental, oven.
A statue of a group of people with their arms wrapped around each other in a circle of solidarity sits on a bench as they spoke about people who came week in, week out.
‘‘They found something here — acceptance,’’ Mrs Clough said.
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