New Super Kitchen launched

Vinnies Victoria launches new ‘super kitchen’ to feed 400,000 in inner-city Melbourne.

In early May, the St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria (Vinnies Victoria) celebrated the launch of our innovative new Inner City Soup Van hub in Kensington, Melbourne. 

The facility is believed to be the first of its kind fitted out inside two reconditioned shipping crates, one housing a commercial-size cooker and oven, and the other holding a cool room and storage areas. The state-ofthe-art cooking facilities are able to produce 60 litres of soup or pasta in minutes. The hub will be serving hot food to people in need in the CBD and on the streets of the inner city to answer an increase in demand due to rising costs of living. 

News reports of surging food prices and rising rental stress among low income earners reflect the growing need that Vinnies has seen on the street for some time. The demand for Soup Vans doubled during COVID across all eight hubs – and is still rising. Last year, the hubs served 600,000 meals. The Inner City Soup Van hub will serve 400,000 meals annually to thousands of individuals and families experiencing homelessness or struggling to afford food. 

Sarah Cromie, General Manager Membership and Special Works who oversaw the project, says: “This is a new concept. We’re not aware of another organisation running facilities for vulnerable communities on this scale. At Vinnies, we’re focused on sustainable solutions and in terms of our Soup Vans, this is it. The new ‘super kitchen’ facilities are going to make a huge difference to the amount of hot, nutritious food we are able to get out to those communities quickly and efficiently. 

“The event was also an opportunity to remember Leo Holt, our late State Soup Van President. Leo – who set up the Collingwood run in 1998 and tragically died suddenly during a volunteer shift in 2021 – first proposed the project to me in 2020. 

“It was exciting to launch the hub after two years of planning and production and, of course, Leo’s sad death. He would have been so proud of what we’ve achieved.  

“That’s why we called the cooking facility ‘Leo’s Kitchen’.” 

The hub amalgamates the former Collingwood and Fitzroy services and was primarily funded from a generous bequest (whose family wish to remain anonymous). Vinnies hopes to expand the shipping crate model so that facilities can also be transported at short notice to an emergency situation, such as a bushfire or flood.  

“It was wonderful to mark the event and welcome our volunteers and corporate supporters, including the Cities of Melbourne and Yarra, IGA, Woodards Foundation, Talaria Capital and Grill’d – as well as a number of our Vinnies CEO Sleepout participants and ambassadors," says Ms Cromie.

 “We know there is an increased need. We’re seeing people come to us who are really desperate for food. We’re seeing young families and older women coming to us for food who are experiencing homelessness, or at risk of homelessness, due to the rising cost of living. What I’m really proud of is that the hub will provide the buffer many people currently struggling so desperately need to get through another day.” 

This year, roughly a third of the $1.8 million raised during the Vinnies CEO Sleepout in Victoria will help support the sustainability of the Soup Van Hub.