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Generous food donation from restaurants left with excess

Chefs from the RSL cooked 400 meals

18 August 2021

Bega Valley Shire Council’s Nourish & Flourish program has shone a bright light for the community during a challenging week by diverting hundreds of freshly cooked meals to people in need.

Staff at the Merimbula RSL jumped to action as a public health order for all restaurants to close saw them cooking the weekend’s ingredients into more than 400 meals for the local community pantry.

Sapphire Life Opportunities CEO Janita Fernando said the community pantry supports an average of 100 families every week, and the stay at home order was likely to increase that need.

“This is a huge benefit to our community. These meals and other fresh food will mean so much to the people who are doing it really tough right now,” Ms Fernando said.

“We encourage anyone to contact us if they are struggling with this lockdown. We can arrange meal delivery and everyone is welcome to visit the pantry in Merimbula, which is open six days a week.”

RSL head chef Derek Philistin and secretary manager Michael Mutsch, met with Council last week to sign up for the Nourish & Flourish program, which connects food businesses with community pantries in Merimbula, Bega and Eden.

“We saw the ads on television for Nourish & Flourish but we didn’t realise until we met with Sarah Eastman just how easy it was to donate to the pantry,” Mr Philistin said.

“Like most kitchens, we have a strong focus on not wasting anything, but because the lockdown was pretty sudden we do have excess. We are so pleased that we can pass this food onto the pantry to support our community.”

Mr Philistin said knowing the meals were going to people in need and not to landfill was a special feeling for all the chefs, with most volunteering their time to prepare the meals. 

“This is just the start of a long relationship between the RSL and the pantry. We’ve got lots of ideas of how we can help in the future.”

Merimbula Mexican restaurant, Santa Fe also donated excess food to the pantry this week.

Chef, Chris Wilson said they were pleased to be able to donate their freshly-prepared ingredients initially destined for weekend diners.

“Sapphire Life Opportunities does great work in the community and it is so much better to be able to donate this food rather than it be wasted and go into landfill,” Mr Wilson said.

Nourish & Flourish project officer, Sarah Eastman said it was inspiring to see the way the Bega Valley community supported each other.

“This is what the Nourish & Flourish project is all about, supporting and making these connections between food businesses and the pantries,” Ms Eastman said.

“We are experiencing a constantly changing situation placing pressure on families and landfill. Awareness is growing, and people are realising that donating is a simple step that anyone can take.”

Ms Fernando said the Sapphire Life Opportunities community pantry is dependent on growing awareness and simple actions to help people in need.

“We are so grateful to the RSL and Santa Fe for their generosity, and for the Nourish & Flourish program which is helping us connect with more businesses,” Ms Fernando said.

Businesses wanting to donate to the Eden, Merimbula or Bega community pantries can sign up to Nourish & Flourish at or phone Sarah Eastman on (02) 6499 2222.

Nourish & Flourish is a NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), Waste Less Recycle More initiative funded from the waste levy.

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