What began as a way of distributing fresh bread to the Red Hill community has become a weekly social event involving fun and friendship.
Redhill Community Centre’s Friday night ‘Bread Table’ started in early 2020. Previously the donated fresh bakery bread had been either distributed to homes in Papakura or shared through Papakura Wesleyan Church, which meets at the community centre on Sundays. The Bread Table has been found to be a more efficient and equitable method of distribution, direct from the centre.
Volunteers are rostered each Friday evening to collect that day’s unsold bread from the bakery and bring it to the centre. There, other volunteers from the centre and the community help to set up tables and bag the bread ready for pick-up.
“Initially we promoted it by word of mouth, but then our community worker Ashan Rodrigo started sharing it through Facebook, and that’s when it really took off,” says Susan Raof-Karim, one of the organisers.
Ashan and his wife Sam started introducing activities like table tennis, basketball and board games on Friday evenings, for people to play while they waited to collect their bread. This has now become a regular feature of Bread Table. There is always tea and coffee available, and sometimes snacks too.
Bread Table provides sense of community
“There is a huge mix of people who attend,” says Susan. “Some have started coming after being involved in other weekly groups that meet in the centre, such as Contagious Craft and Fun Fit. All ages are represented, including families bringing children. Some come only once, or every fortnight or so, and others attend every week.
“There is a lot of laughter and fun. Some people are happy just to sit having a chat or working on a jigsaw puzzle, while others are getting lots of exercise in the gym with volleyball or basketball.”
The social interaction provided by Bread Table was highlighted in an informal survey Redhill Community Centre did with visitors back in May 2021.
“We come every week ‘cos the kids love the games and I love the socialising and sense of community,” said one person.
“It’s totally out of [my] comfort zone as I have social anxiety, but I felt very welcomed and it was a comfortable environment,” said another.
“I love seeing the bread being distributed and not wasted and the opportunity to build community in Red Hill,” says Susan. “Having a place to always have someone to chat to is great for our community’s mental and social well-being. It has been lovely to build up some friendships with those who attend and to point them towards other activities going on in the centre.”
Current challenges, future plans
Unfortunately, Covid-19 restrictions have disrupted Bread Table at times. However, at alert level 2 the bread was still able to be distributed, with drive-through contactless pick-up taking place in the centre’s carpark.
The Bread Table team regularly discuss how the community evening can be improved or expanded upon. Some ideas being floated for consideration are for other organisations to do pop-up educational demonstrations, or for the centre to run cooking classes. Got an idea for something you’d like to see at Bread Table? Email us!