For the past 11 years Nobucks has been offering a free lunch with no strings attached to anyone who comes into the Wesley Centre in Hobart but recently diners have been enjoying some musical accompaniment as well.
Nobucks coordinator and founder Suzanne Vincent said the program, which serves all-comers with a three-course lunch Mondays to Thursdays and hosts barbecues on Fridays, adhere strongly to its ‘three Ps philosophy’.
“We don’t preach, we don’t pry and we don’t presume,” she said.
“We only know about them what they wish to divulge to us.”
However, as people come to share meals they may feel more comfortable in revealing more of themselves.
“We’ve got one young chap, or I call him young, he’s just started coming in recently,” Suzanne said.
“I don’t know very much about him. He said five years ago he became a Christian. He plays piano beautifully, so he goes off into the hall every day to do that.
“Then a woman has picked up on that and she goes in and sings with him. Things like that happen.”
Nobucks, which started out as a drop-in centre providing just tea, coffee and biscuits, typically feeds about 40 people a day, but can do up to 80.
The program has been financially supported by the Wesley Uniting Church congregation along with a bequest and some government money.
Recently the governance of Nobucks and the ownership of the Wesley Centre was passed to Uniting Tasmania.
“By joining forces with Nobucks, we are able to expand this great free meal service so that many more vulnerable people have access to fresh, healthy food in a safe and inclusive environment,” Uniting Tasmania executive officer Jeremy Pettet said.
Synod Liaison Minister Rohan Pryor also welcomed Uniting Tasmania’s involvement.
“Nobucks is a story of genuine good news for those in need,” Rohan said. “We are right behind this great no-cost meal ministry and believe it will flourish with Uniting’s support and guidance.”
Suzanne said people came to Nobucks for varied reasons.
“There are some who are very much in material need and there are others who are not in need of money or food, they are in need of company,” she said.
“We have some regulars that you wonder where they are if they don’t come. Others might come in certain days or intermittently.”
For Suzanne, who is a retired TAFE teacher – in computers rather than hospitality – running Nobucks is close to a full-time job.
She cooks on Wednesdays and twice a week collects the produce from a foodbank as well as making regular pick-ups at two bakeries who donate bread and other pastries.
Suzanne also organises the other volunteers, who are both church and non-church members, to have two cooks and one kitchen helper rostered on for each lunch.
“It cannot be done without the volunteers, who are very generous of what they give of their time,” Suzanne said.
“It’s a huge commitment to become a volunteer at Nobucks.”
Suzanne said she was as committed to the program as ever and was proud of what it had delivered every day for so many years.
“It was said at one stage that we are the blueprint for any other congregation who would want to do the same, they would need to come and talk to us to see how it is done,” she said.