top of page

Taste of Compassion

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre is turning the wheels of hope, and nourishing the spirit of compassion with its Food Justice Truck

Featured article from Issue 3 #gather

Interview by Cynthia Sciberras /
Words by Renae Robinson /
Photo by Tim Turner

“I wanted to create a place of hope and welcome where no one was turned away. A centre that stood for justice, that was willing to be at the coalface when and where it mattered to people. Where dreams of freedom burned brightly in the hearts of all who entered.” Mr Karapanagiotidis

How to nourish ourselves, asylum seekers, the community, local farmers and the Earth? Simple. Take one community ecosystem, an army of volunteers and a crowd of internet funders, add a set of wheels and a dash of imaginative compassion, and there you have it – the Food Justice Truck.

This award-winning social enterprise by Melbourne’s Asylum Seeker Resource Centre aims to reach ‘the others’ – the asylum seekers who cannot access the centre’s services through capacity constraints. There are more than 10,000 people seeking asylum in Victoria who are on bridging visas, and who face growing food insecurity.

The Food Justice Truck is a mobile fresh food market, where I or anybody can shop at regular supermarket rates (or even slightly less) while asylum seekers receive a 75 percent discount. The produce comes from Victorian farmers, and the truck itself aims for zero waste.

ASRC Humanitarian Services Director, and Food Justice Truck pioneer, Patrick – the inspiration behind the truck – describes it as a “triple bottom line shopping experience”, that is financial, environmental and social.

“The reason it exists is the social benefit, meaning the impact of the nutritional landscape of asylum seekers who shop there,” Patrick says.

“The financial benefit is obviously to asylum seekers – the 75 percent discount is quite profound – but also for the general public who shop there. We aim to ever so slightly undercut supermarket prices,” he says.

“So we are not charging a premium for our services to assist asylum seekers – it’s just a fair price.”

That discount, however, is a massive help when you consider that the average asylum seeker has about $20 for food a week, compared with the average Australian male’s food consumption of $130 a week.

The truck has also received pro bono support from artist and eco-entrepreneur Joost Bakker – founder of Melbourne zero-waste restaurant Brothl, which has now closed.

“If we can create a world where everything we use can be recycled back into a product again – so, endlessly recyclable – then most of our problems are solved,” Mr Bakker says.