22 March 2023

Refugee background drives priest’s passion for food security

Reverend Robert Koren is passionate about everyone being able to access food, and is taking steps to ensure his parish can do more to help. Image: Supplied.

Kirralee Nicolle

14 July 2022

The rising cost of living and a recent influx of refugees has prompted a parish in Melbourne’s north-western suburbs to provide food packages to those experiencing disadvantage.

The Anglican Parish of St Matthew’s Glenroy and St Linus’ Merlynston recently registered as a Foodbank agency, a move which parish vicar Reverend Robert Koren said made their food distribution efforts more expansive and generous.

Read more: Aid needed to supply food, goods, advocacy to fleeing Ukrainians 

He said the move was primarily sparked by a desire to provide food to refugees from Ukraine who were waiting on visas for work.

Mr Koren said that as the son of a Croatian refugee who fled Europe during World War II, both food security and the needs of refugees were close to his heart.

Read more: Food drive volunteers evoke community generosity

Mr Koren only began as parish priest at St Matthew’s and St Linus’ in May, but he said that at his previous appointment he had also set up a Foodbank distribution centre.

He said they had already been distributing food out of St Matthew’s and St Linus’ in partnership with a Ukrainian centre, but that the Foodbank registration allowed them to distribute even more food.

“Instead of 20 or 30 [kilograms] of food, [we] can [now provide] 800 kilograms in one hit,” he said.

“[It] makes it more expansive and generous.”

Read more: Drive nets 13 tonnes of food for charities

Mr Koren said the church was also in the process of establishing a partnership with a community group who provided job training for those with special needs.

He planned to offer participants in this training program an opportunity to get involved in the food distribution process.

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