Rescue me

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Spend 10 minutes with Rosa Del Ponte of Katoomba’s Earth Recovery, Food Rescue and Mountains Soul Kitchen.

It’s mid-morning at Earth Recovery in Katoomba and Rosa Del Ponte is doing the rounds of the supermarkets rescuing food bound for landfill. It’s a challenging job feeding the poverty stricken and homeless but Rosa can’t let it get her down, there are too many people counting on her to keep on keeping on.

Q: How long have you been involved with Earth Recovery, Food Rescue and Mountains Soul Kitchen?

Rosa: I started the organisation with five friends in 2012 and Christmas of that year we launched Mountains Soul Kitchen.

Q: What prompted you to start the organisation?

Rosa: My friend Sarah and I started Soul Kitchen as a result of our final project for a TAFE course. As part of an emergency relief study we went to 27 agencies from Lithgow to Penrith to speak to them about what services they offered. We were looking for a gap to fill and found it in the Soul Kitchen. Christmas and weekends were identified as times when services were lacking so it seemed to make sense to start with a trial then.

We worked under the auspices of Blue Mountains Family Support for the first few months and then we kicked off and were able to cover our own insurance and administration. We were originally based in the Civic Centre but rent became an issue because we were only running on donations, so we did a deal with the Uniting Church and moved to Junction 142.

Q: What is your background?

Rosa: My background is in film and TV production and PR. When I moved to the mountains I got a job at Planet Ark working on the National Tree Day campaign and discovered that I really liked the not-for-profit business model. It gave me an impetus for work in community services so I did a bit of volunteering and then took up a position at Muru Mittigar [Aboriginal Cultural and Education Centre] as a business development manager. After that contract ended, I volunteered in neighbourhood centres. Providing free food for those in need was a big passion of mine and a niche that needed filling in the mountains but I couldn’t get traction anywhere, so we decided to start our own service.

Q: Where do you get food for Soul Kitchen and is it enough?

Rosa: Over the years, I’ve built face-to-face relationships with managers at local supermarkets to secure donations to Blue Mountains Food Rescue. And now that we are known in the community we get calls from other businesses also to come and collect food. We pretty well run out of food on a daily basis but we’re collecting daily and also get supplemented by Second Bite who deliver up to 1000 kilos of food every week from the Coles distribution centre in western Sydney. This lasts us a few days and is topped up by what we collect from Woolies, Coles, Aldi, the Co-op and local businesses.

Q: It sounds like a lot of food – is the need really that great?

Rosa: Yes. Absolutely. We distribute over 2000 kilos of food every week and there is very little waste. We have to sort through it and there’s the odd thing we can’t use but the vast majority of food collected is used. And if there is any waste it goes to the Community Gardens to be composted.

Q: How is the food distributed?

Rosa: Volunteers sort and pack boxes ready to be collected for distribution points and we also encourage individuals to come and pick what they need. We try not to be too officious and to give people a little bit of choice. It’s really important for people to know that it’s open, and it’s free. All we need is a first name and how many people you’re collecting for just so we can keep records of how much food we are distributing. For example, on any given day we know that if we’ve had 70 individuals visit, picking up for a mixture of families, couples and single households, we can add up how many people are being fed.

Distribution points are growing too. Community groups like the Anglicare Op-shop in Wentworth Falls and North Katoomba Community Hub collect food to distribute, and that means we can operate up and down the mountain – from Catholic Care Springwood up to Blackheath. We’ve recently heard that Mount Victoria school could do with some help so it’s just a matter of finding a volunteer who is willing to take that task on.

Q: How bad is homelessness in the mountains?

Rosa: Homelessness is more of a problem in spring and summer because it’s only the really tough who survive sleeping rough up here in the colder months. The lack of affordable single persons’ accommodation will be the next hit that we see in the mountains because the rental market is already pretty unaffordable if you’re on Centrelink benefits. I’m already seeing people not being able to get into housing – they can’t get rent assistance because Centrelink say they can’t afford the rent but what do they do – stay homeless? It’s a vicious cycle that nobody seems to think about.

Q: How can the community help?

Rosa: We want to spread the word about Soul Kitchen and Earth Recovery because I’m sure there are still people out there struggling who don’t know what we do. Almost daily, we get people saying “I didn’t know this place was here” and at least once a week somebody bursts into tears because they are overwhelmed with gratitude. And we always welcome volunteers.

Q: How can local businesses help?

Rosa: Any businesses that want to be involved can freeze meals at the end of the day and we can do a weekly collection. Then the food can be given as a meal to someone who is homeless or in temporary accommodation.

Q: When does Soul Kitchen operate?

Rosa: Soul Kitchen cooks lunch every Sunday and once a week we prepare meals that are frozen so people can take them home or heat them up here. It means people are getting a nutritious home-cooked meal and not something that’s been manufactured. I think that’s really important, especially when people are coping with financial stress, are homeless, or are living in temporary accommodation.

Q: How do you raise funds for Earth Recovery and Soul Kitchen?

Rosa: We’ve received a few grants over the years and a lot of community support. All the facilities are undergoing renovation and Rotary have been amazing. We have fundraising gigs at Junction 142 and we’re hoping to raise enough money to finish the upgrade of the Food Rescue Kitchen and complete work on the homeless facility at the rear of Junction 142.

For more information or to get involved go to earthrecovery.org.au

Wild Weed Workshop
12th September, 2018

You will never look at weeds in the same way again after taking part in this workshop.

Diego Bonetto is a weed forager, artist, storyteller and an expert on identifying the nutritious plants that grow under our feet that most people call ‘weeds’.

Take a walk on the wild side and discover the edible and medicinal plants that grow around us. Learn about the role weeds play in repairing and building soil. Find out how they have been used for food, craft and natural remedies. Discover ways to safely harvest from the wild and enrich your diet with vitamins and minerals.

Each participant will receive a booklet detailing 16 of the most common wild edibles of the greater Sydney region.

The Weedy One

We asked Diego Bonetto aka The Weedy One what got him into weeds.

Q: What got you interested in wild food and foraging?

Diego: Where I grew up, on a dairy farm in northern Italy, harvesting seasonal bounties is just another chore. I grew up with collecting bitter greens from the fields in springtime, summer berries and autumn mushrooms. When I moved to Australia 25 years ago I continued with the same practice of collecting gifts from nature.

Q: What are weeds useful for?

Diego: All sorts of things. “Weeds” are pioneer species, opportunistic plants with a specific ecological task: to cover soil and start the process of remediation after a disruption. It also happens that many of them are edible and/or have medicinal qualities. We can talk about co-evolution if you want, and that would explain why we have so much to answer about the proliferation of pioneer species. Weeds are good, and food.

Q: You do a lot of foraging in urban areas – how do you mitigate contamination by pesticides, animal faeces or other pollutants?

Diego: You only ever forage where you know it is clean. Even then, it is now proven that wild urban plants do not take up as much contaminant as we might expect them to. A simple vinegar wash would cleanse the plants of any dust and oils. But anyhow. I always say that the best place to forage is your own garden, so that you forage where you know how many dogs there are, who sprays what and also a bit of history of the soil.

Q: Do you have a favourite weed you like to cook with or use medicinally?

Diego: Depending on the season. At the moment I am waiting for the mulberries. In Sydney we have a lot of wild mulberries, and they are delicious.

Q: Are there any “weeds” you know of that are endemic to the Blue Mountains?

Diego: I do not think you can have an endemic weed. I guess native species that are a bit too aggressive could be golden wattle and sweet pittosporum.

There are still a few spots left so to book your ticket for the Wonderful Wild Weeds workshop click here.

Location: Upper Blue Mountains – to be confirmed

 

Eco-friendly spring cleaning

Ditch harsh chemical cleaning products in your home for these local, eco-friendly substitutes.

After the birth of her son, Archie (Archimedes), Natalie Beak was drawn to a simpler way of life. The freelance art director and television production designer had just made a tree change to the mountains and begun listening to The Slow Home podcast by local mountain’s mum Brooke McAlary. “Brooke spoke about simplifying cleaning products and habits, and I soon realised that we really didn’t need 15 different bottles of chemicals in the home,” Natalie explains.

“I started reading everything I could about natural living and slowing down, notably Rhonda Hetzel’s Down the Earth, Rebecca Sullivan’s The Art of the Natural Home and The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb.” This reading coupled with lots of internet research and even more making and testing, formed the background to a new business idea that was bubbling away in Natalie’s mind.

“Making eco-friendly cleaning products for my own family was one thing, but I wanted to share the idea that natural and simple is best,” she says. “Unless we work in high-risk environments where disease control is paramount, we don’t need to be using harsh chemicals in the home. The basics of vinegar, water and essential oils are really all you need to keep a clean and family-friendly home!” And so, Archimedes and Me was born.

Since then Natalie’s home-made chemical-free cleaning and personal care product range has increased to include kitchen and bathroom and general cleaners, salt scrubs, a magnesium bath soak and even a birthing blend.

Here she shares one of her basic recipes.

All-Purpose Kitchen Spray

In a 500ml spray bottle combine:

3/4 cup of vinegar

35 drops of essential oils (citrus oils like wild orange or lemon are great for dissolving grease, eucalyptus and lemon myrtle have amazing antibacterial properties, and clove is a fabulous mould buster)

Fill the rest of the bottle with distilled or purified water and shake.

NB: This spray is not recommended for natural stone due to the acidic nature of the vinegar and oils but is fantastic for timber or laminate surfaces, floors and cupboards.

For more fantastic eco-friendly cleaning and personal care products come along to the Co-op Thursday 20th September at 11am to Meet the Maker – Natalie Beak of Archimedes and Me.

Giving back
15th August, 2018

The Co-op’s charitable donations are making a difference in the community.

Photo: Vigil outside the Windsor office of Macquarie MP, Susan Templeman, to mark five years detention on Manus and Nauru and 12 deaths.

End of financial year (EOFY) at the Co-op involves some serious number crunching, a bout of tedious auditing and the much more rewarding task of sharing a percentage of our profits. And while we regularly donate to various local community groups and social justice organisations throughout the year – including Katoomba Community Neighbourhood Centre, Mid Mountains Community Hub, Aboriginal Culture and Resource Centre, Earth Recovery/Food Rescue at Junction 142, and Blue Mountains Cancer Help – this financial year we were also able to make some extra donations to deserving local community groups.

Among them is the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group (BMRSG) which champions the rights of, and provides practical assistance to asylum seekers and refugees in western Sydney.

George Winston, Fundraising Coordinator at BMRSG, says the money received from the Co-op will be used to continue their vital work. “The Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group committee is hugely grateful for the cash donation from the Co-op which will help us to maintain 76 asylum seeker families in western Sydney,” Mr Winston says. “We help people with food, school supplies, medical costs, rent assistance and other essentials, so cash injections are crucial.”

Photo: Two ‘Nannas’ knitting at the Blue Mountains Music Festival to invite people to ask about the treatment of those seeking asylum.

There are currently 480 members of the BMRSG but Mr Winston says they are always looking for people who can donate skills, money and energy to the cause.

“Some of our members visit asylum seekers in western Sydney and detainees in Villawood Detention Centre. And we have a community and political advocacy group that works with schools and other organisations to increase awareness and influence politicians, so there are many ways to get involved,” he says.

To become a member or donate to the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group go to www.bmrsg.org.au or contact George Winston directly on funds@bmrsg.org,au or 0490 179347.

Child’s play

Another beneficiary was Katoomba North Public School who received a donation to help fund improvements to the playground. Principal, Cathy Clark, says the money was greatly appreciated. “The support of the Food Co-op means that together with P & C fundraising we will have sufficient money to grind protruding tree roots in the playground, spread mulch to make an even playing surface, and erect a cubby house,” she said.

This calendar year also saw the implementation of the Nourishing Families project at North Katoomba Community Hub. The brainchild of Prue Adams, former Marketing and Member Liaison Officer at the Co-op, Nourishing Families brought together Jackie Spolc from the Hub and holistic nutrition coach Danielle O’Donoghue to develop a program of community cooking classes aimed at educating participants in how to prepare tasty nutritious food. The four-term program, partly funded by a grant from the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (supported by Scenic World) and donations from local councillors, has been a great success to date and application for funding for next year’s project is underway.

Can we fix it?
15th August, 2018

Can we fix it? Yes we can, with your help! Toolo, the not-for-profit Katoomba Tool Library, is calling for volunteer repairers for the new Katoomba Repair Café.

Are you a Mr or Ms Fixit? Do you have mending skills you’d like to share with the community? Then we need you at Katoomba’s Repair Café.

Toolo  and the Blue Mountains Food Co-op are launching a Repair Café at Junction 142 in Katoomba on 15th September. Repair Cafés are non-monetary shopfronts for an international sustainability movement that is all about repairing damaged or broken household items that would otherwise end up in landfill. Repair Cafés offer communities the chance to learn how to mend clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, toys, computer equipment and more by providing tools, materials and volunteers with repair skills in all kinds of fields.

Just rewards

As incentive, volunteer repairers will receive a free years membership with the Co-op (valued at $35) for their first Repair Café and volunteer points for time spent at the Repair Café on subsequent dates. If volunteers are already members of the Co-op they will receive volunteer points.

To register your interest contact Toolo on toolo.blue@gmail.com

POSITION VACANT – Coordinator role

The Repair Café Mender Coordinator is a volunteer position whose main responsibility is to liaise directly with the volunteer menders from the community, provide them with rostered shifts, provide an orientation and safety induction, and collect and file volunteer paperwork. The Repair Café Mender Coordinator should be familiar with basic computer skills, such as Google Drive, Microsoft Word and Excel spreadsheets. This volunteer position is for approximately 8 hours per month and entitles the successful candidate to free membership of the Blue Mountains Food Co-op, valued at $35 (or volunteer points if already a member) and full membership to the Blue Mountains Tool Library valued at $99. To apply contact Toolo on toolo.blue@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Natural healing
15th August, 2018

Herbs for mums ‘n bubs

Get to grips with gripe and beat the baby blues with soothing natural remedies from our in-store practitioner, Chris Ireland.

The Co-op stocks a wide range of beautiful organic herbs that can be used safely through pregnancy and after birth. This article will detail some recipes for regulating breast milk flow, keeping mum’s spirits up in the days after birth, and helping manage digestive discomfort in the new bub.

Breast milk tea

Classically nutritive herbs, fennel and fenugreek seeds can be combined to help increase milk flow in the new mum. Rosemary Gladstar, a doyenne of modern herbalism, internationally renowned for her technical knowledge and stewardship in the global herbalist community, suggests the following breast milk tea:

4 parts fennel seed

2 parts nettle

2 parts raspberry leaf

½ part fenugreek seed

Use 4-6 tablespoons of herbs to a litre of water. Bruise the seeds lightly and add them and the herbs to cold water. Bring the mixture to a slow boil over low heat, with the pot covered. Remove from the heat and infuse for 20 minutes. Strain. Drink 3-4 cups daily.

Beat the baby blues

For lifting the spirits when feeling a bit overwhelmed in the days after birth, this lovely Joy tea is another Rosemary Gladstar classic:

2 parts chamomile

3 parts lemon balm

2 parts hibiscus flowers

2 parts rose petals

1/8 part lavender flowers

1/8 part cardamom pods, chopped

Use 4-6 tablespoons of herbs per litre of water. Add herbs to a pot and pour boiling water over them. Infuse for 5-10 minutes, covered. Strain out herbs. Drink immediately or serve chilled in summer.

DIY gripe water

Get to grips with gripe using this simple DIY recipe:

1 Tbsp fennel seeds

½ inch piece fresh ginger grated

1 tsp chamomile

125ml (½ cup) filtered water

Lightly bruise fennel seeds. Pour boiling water over herbs, cover pot and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain out herbs, ginger and seeds carefully with a coffee filter.

Kept covered in a closed and sterilised jar in the fridge this mix will last for 2-3 days. For infants small drop doses may be used, and for older babies up to a teaspoon of the mix may be diluted and given in a bottle of water. For best results, use after feeding and before bed.

NB: If problems persist consult a medical practitioner.

 

August in store
9th August, 2018

Winter warmers

Blood oranges, ruby grapefruit, local lemons, tangelos, limes, mandarins and oranges are in store now so make the most of this colourful vitamin-packed bounty.

Broccoli in all its shapes and forms, including purple sprouting, is also plentiful as are other brassicas including cabbage, cauliflower, kale and their cousin the much maligned Brussels sprout.

 

Off the shelf

Glüh-Brew is an organic spiced syrup to make mulled wine. Mix it with the red wine of your choice, then warm it up to make mulled wine. Glüh-Brew contains only certified organic ingredients and filtered water. One 330ml bottle makes up a total of 2.25 litres or three bottles of wine. You can make up as much or as little as you want at any time. Add 30ml to a large mug, or 100ml to one 750ml bottle of wine, then heat on the stove top or in the microwave, but be sure not to boil. Alternatively you can add Glüh-Brew to gin or vodka on ice, or add a splash to a glass of bubbly. If you don’t feel like drinking, then try Glüh-Brew drizzled on ice cream, yoghurt, pancakes, waffles, poached fruit, or add a dash to your tea. Glüh-Brew is proudly made in the Blue Mountains.

Star Dust powder mixes from Mindful Foods for lattes and smoothies include Longevity, Detox, Energise, Immunity and Anti-Inflammatory blends.

Our well-stocked tea range includes new additions such as Nature’s Cuppa Organic Chai Spice and Planet Organic Ginger, Echinacea and Spearmint tea bags.

These lip-smacking fig and mulberry jams from Earthcare Farm are a new addition to the Co-op’s shelves.

Currently out of stock

  • Sizzler Corn Chips (bulk) Product issues ETA late August
  • Raisins and Currants. Poor crop this year.
  • Unhulled Sesame Seeds. Not ordering from Murray River Organics (our only supplier) due to stock-outs and high minimum freight free order.
  • Tamarind and Creamed Coconut Blocks. Looking for new supplier. Previous supplier no longer trading.
Dog day afternoon
9th August, 2018

Gone to the dogs

We eat well, so why shouldn’t our dogs? Bring your four-legged friend to the Co-op on Thursday 30th August between 1 – 3.30pm for an afternoon of doggy diet discussion complete with canine canapés from Miso’s Treats and The Dog Baker.

Miso’s Treats

Based in Katoomba, Miso’s Treats are all natural, dehydrated dog treats that are low in fat with no added salt, sugar or preservatives. Only the best quality ingredients are used, with a preference for Australian, free-range and organic products whenever possible. Miso’s Treats contain at least 45% vegetables so they’re very healthy and many have no grains or dairy and so are suitable for dogs with allergy issues.

Miso’s Treats also offers dehydrated single ingredient treats like Grass Fed Beef Strips and Free Range Chicken Jerky, and dehydrated fruit and vegetables that dogs love such as Sweet Potato, Carrots, Apples and Pears.

“Miso” (above) and “Rosie” (top) photos by Paul Watkins.

facebook.com/Miso’sTreats

The Dog Baker

Sue Barclay, chief baker at The Dog Baker – a boutique Blue Mountains business – admits that prior to starting The Dog Baker she paid little attention to the ingredients in popular commercial dog treats. But when she finally did, it proved a scary read. “The ingredients included excessive amounts of salt, additive numbers (a very long list), sugar and generic references to unspecified meat products,” says Sue.  “No wonder my dogs were always gasping for a drink after feeding them treats. It seemed we had been inadvertently overdosing them on salt and other unknown additives.”

Sue realised the only way to ensure her dogs ate healthy treats was to make them herself. And so, after numerous experimental batches and lots of taste testing by her dogs, neighbourhood and friends’ dogs, and even a hungry teenage son, The Dog Baker was born. Using natural human-grade ingredients The Dog Baker treat range includes Apple Cheese Buckwheat biscuits, Banana Peanut Butter Carob bones and Sardine, Mint & Parsley paws.

dogbaker.com.au

The scoop on poop

If aliens chose to observe human behaviour through the lens of an off-leash dog park they would probably assume that dogs were the superior race. They’ve trained us well, our furry, four-legged friends, as we dutifully follow them around picking up after them. Aliens might also wonder why we are using environmentally damaging plastic bags to scoop the poop when there are much better eco-friendly alternatives.

The dog bags provided by Blue Mountains City Council in dispensers at off leash dog parks are degradable, meaning they break down into tiny little pieces of plastic over many, many years but remain in the eco-system as a pollutant and a danger to wildlife. The Co-op stocks Biobags, biodegradable dog poop bags made from a resin derived from plants, vegetable oils and compostable polymers that are completely compostable:  https://biobagworld.com.au/product/50-biodegradable-dog-poop-bags/

And because there is still much consumer confusion regarding the meaning of biodegradable, compostable, and bioplastic, here’s a nifty explanation from Choice magazine:

https://www.choice.com.au/shopping/packaging-labelling-and-advertising/packaging/articles/biodegradable-plastic

Meet the Maker – Nina’s Bees
9th August, 2018

Queen bee

Nina Tverskikh of Nina’s Bees shares the buzz on being an apiarist in this Q&A with the Co-op.

What got you into beekeeping?

Nina: A few years back my life took an unexpected turn after listening to an intriguing podcast that revealed the secret life of bees. On that same day, I made the decision to give these clever buzzing creatures a sanctuary in my own backyard, and my apiary has been growing ever since. To date, my little helpers and I have rescued countless wild swarms and given them a gift in the form of a second chance in the Blue Mountains.

How did you learn to use honey and beeswax?

Nina: My grandmother (babushka) grew up in an orthodox family of Old Believers, living in the wilderness of the taiga (boreal forest) in far eastern Russia. All of her family had to rely on natural medicine in their everyday lives. All through her life babushka Sasha would collect and use herbs, make tinctures and salves to treat literally every ailment. I learnt my basics from her.

What products do you make?

Nina: I make all-natural, botanical balms and soaps made with bee products from my apiary. I also make beeswax food wraps. All products are hand made with organic and/or cold-pressed oils, essential oils and are packaged in recyclable containers.

What is the best part about being an apiarist?

Learning new things about bees every time I open a hive. Working with bees and observing their environment made me a better gardener and passionate advocate for chemical-free living.

Nina will be at the Co-op Thursday 16th August from 10.30 – 12.30 for a Meet the Maker session.

July in store
12th July, 2018

Purple haze

This month sees an influx of rare and unusual fruits and vegetables with an emphasis on purple!

Cauliflowers

Mark Twain described cauliflowers as “cabbages with college educations”. These purple ones, in store now for a limited time, are not only smart but also packed with anthocyanin – a flavonoid found in blueberries and grapes – thought to have anti-inflammatory health benefits.

Purple and yellow carrots

Carrots are packed with minerals such as iron, magnesium and potassium, and are a good source of vitamin C, niacin and folate. The absorption of the protective beta carotene is increased by slightly cooking or finely pulverising.

Dragon fruit

Most of us associate dragon fruit with tropical salads we’ve eaten on holiday in south east Asia, but did you know that the dragon fruit, or Pitaya, comes from a cactus native to the Americas?

In the big Little Shop

Check out our fantastic range of bamboo, stainless steel and glass drinking straws (and cleaning brushes) because plastic straws suck!

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