August 30, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

The National Convention Centre Canberra (NCCC) has relaunched the Cooked Meals Pilot Program in partnership with OzHarvest which sees the convention centre cook 500 meals a week to be distributed to those who need them by the food rescue charity.

The pilot program was first rolled out during the early months of the pandemic last year. During Canberra’s current COVID-19 lockdown, the venue has been reengaged by OzHarvest to participate in the program for the foreseeable future.

“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.”

NCCC executive chef Nikhil Jain said those receiving the food could expect the same quality as those the kitchen normally caters to for events.

“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.”

The NCCC has supported OzHarvest for 14 years and in normal times, donates all leftover food from the events it hosts to the charity.