PerMission to Eat

50 Barrack Street, Hobart
03) 6215 4200
Open: Open Monday to Friday 8.00am to 4.00pm. Takeaways.

We all respond in our own way to the heart rending scenes of the Syrian refugees in Europe and to the humanity of people giving them a lift in their car and welcoming them with parcels of food and water. But here, as we hurry about our business, the homeless, the abused, the addicted and those simply down on their luck are largely invisible. Even if the problems were more open, how many of us would go up to any one of the many homeless people sleeping in parks, in alleyways and by the rivulet, and take them home for a hot meal?

Yet that’s exactly what PerMission to Eat does.

“They come in here and you can see them sit up straighter” says Operations Manager, Christina Sharpe. “Young men take off their caps. Battered women feel no need to be apprehensive or embarrassed. To sit at a table and order a meal or just coffee and cake provides, for them, a respite of normalcy in an otherwise troubled day or week.

PerMission to Eat opened six months ago on the initiative of the next-door City Mission. It is, in all respects, a nicely designed and appointed café offering excellent coffee and a good menu range of “lighter eats”, “bigger eats” and “sweet eats” prepared by the widely experienced chef, Simon Davies. At lunch I enjoyed a generous all-day breakfast, an excellent, not-over-cooked-to-stringiness smoked beef brisket and an OK Moroccan chicken in need of a bit more of Moroccan zest.

But, more than the food and coffee, it’s the unique concept behind Permission to Eat that sets it apart. In a system they call “Pay it Forward”, you and I on paying, can purchase a token which, passed to the City Mission next door, will give a free coffee, sweet treat or meal in the café to those individuals and families in our community who need a hand. A $2 token will get them a sit-down or takeaway coffee, $4 a cake or dessert and $6 any cooked meal off the menu.

Sharpe says they’re seeing around a dozen customers redeem their tokens each day. But the generosity of their “ordinary” customers is such that it exceeds the number of vouchers redeemed and the excess is then used by Davies to prepare between 300 and 350 meals each month which are frozen and distributed to City Mission’s clients. “Previously” says Sharpe, “City Mission used to provide a bag of dry and tinned goods to their clients. Now we can provide, for example, a single or abused mother and her kids with proper, nutritious hot meals and other food items. It makes a big difference to their well-being and the way they feel about themselves”.

As a not-for-profit operation, PerMission to Eat pays its way through its normal café trading and a growing demand for outside catering. The café is also a training facility for long-term unemployed and others at risk of long-term unemployment with the view to providing them the skills to gain work within the hospitality industry. “Unemployment eats away at you confidence”, says Sharpe. “Especially long-term unemployment. And, in addition to giving them the front-of-house or kitchen skills, it’s very much a matter of overcoming their anxieties and giving them the confidence that they can do something and do have a future”.

I’m confident that, like me, leaving a $10 “token tip” will make the food and coffee taste even better.

Lighter eats $8.50; bigger eats $12.50; sweet eats $2 to $7.50; coffee $3.80

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