Liberty Church has big plans to expand its foodcare business to cover the region's most isolated communities in a a hub and spoke network offering desperately needed aid.
The church founded its West Tamworth foodcare business, which acts like a discount supermarket for Tamworth's underprivileged, five years ago.
The service buys food discarded by Coles and Woolworths and sells it at a small profit. It now opens five days a week, employs a full time manager, and boasts dozens of volunteers.
Senior Pastor James Ardill said the church now plans to set up an outreach service in Barraba by September.
He said there was a "huge" need for food relief in the small communities around Tamworth, where limited options and large fuel bills can easily drain bank accounts dry.
The average weekly household income for the 1400 people in Barraba is about $737, half the state average, he said.
"You think about what you buy, halve it," he said.
"You buy sausages, you buy soup bones, you make stews. You eat catfood."
Mr Ardill said the church aimed to start with just the Barraba store, but hoped to buy a cheap second hand van to do stop overs in towns on the way there from Tamworth.
If certain locations proved popular, the church would look to establish stores in those towns too.
The food banks do more than just fill people's belly, he said.
"Everything we do, we do from a church objective as well. There's spiritual objectives as well as the community action," he said.
"We're looking to alleviate the food insecurity for people. But also too, we run a little free cafe here.
"Not only do we give them a free feed but I've got someone there who can talk to them about anything. It's a mini-community centre."
Once proven in Barraba, the church hub-and-spoke model could be expanded further to communities across the region.
Mr Ardill said communities like Armidale, Manilla, Gunnedah, Nundle and more would likely be on the list, dependent on recruiting volunteers to run stores in them.
The church has also nearly finished construction of a warehouse building at its Hillvue headquarters, which will help store food and other goods for what is set to become a network of stores across the New England and North West.
All the money raised in the Barraba store will stay in the town.
COVID-19 drastically increased need in Tamworth, customers at the West Tamworth store grew from 1800 to 3000.
The Barraba store is currently scheduled to open on September 1.
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