Expertise key with new kitchen facility for the needy

This article was first published in Food & Beverage industry news and can be viewed here.

Project delivery specialist Wiley doesn’t only share its knowledge when it comes to building functional, state-of-the-art food processing factories, it also uses its expertise to help with more altruistic endeavours. Its project with FareShare is an example of how Wiley helps those that are helping others in need.

FareShare is a not-for-profit organisation that “rescues food that would otherwise go to waste and cooks it into free nutritious meals for people in need. Around four million Australians experience food insecurity each year while as much as $20 billion worth of food is wasted”.

Foodbank also works with the Australian food and grocery industry including farmers, wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers. Donations include stock items that are out of specification, close to their expiry date, or are in excess.

In late 2016, FareShare was approached by Foodbank Australia to establish a high-volume kitchen facility in Brisbane so that surplus meat and vegetables in the state could be saved from landfill, cooked, frozen and redirected to those in need. With research showing that over 400,000 Queenslanders experienced food insecurity last year, 50 per cent of them children, it was deemed imperative that a kitchen was established as soon as practical.

FareShare bought a brownfield site in Queensland to build the new kitchen facility within an existing warehouse. The new building footprint was to be in the order of 900 m² and the existing offices and warehouse space was retained. It included two kitchens linked by shared services, cool room and freezers, reception, locker room, function room, tea room, male/female/accessible toilets, laundry and basic storage. The balance of the area was open space. As funds were tight, construction was to be basic, yet robust. It was envisaged that most of the building would comprise insulated cool-room panelling.

“Wiley met FareShare at an industry conference and provided high level advice to us on the selection of the premises, design and food systems advice,” said Kellie Watson, FareShare’s Queensland director. “We were also able to use Wiley’s experience and knowledge to assist us with the delivery of this project. I used their Brisbane office as my office for the first few months too.

The facility consists of two ovens, two 300-litre kettles and three blast chillers. When in use, the kitchen can make one million meals per year. With the addition of evening and weekend shifts, the kitchen would be able to produce two million meals.

With the ability to serve up to that many meals annually, are there any plans for FareShare to expand the facilities capabilities?

“It depends on the need in the community,” said Watson. “We’d like to say ‘no’ but current trends indicate that the need for food relief is increasing each year. The building was designed to be able to increase production if the need in Queensland increases and the raw ingredients are available.

“We have built in [the] capacity for equipment upgrades, installed a grease trap of a size that can grow with us, and we have done preliminary work so that we can easily increase the size of the freezers. For example, we have prepped the floor and built a second multi-purpose area that is currently operating as a dry store. To bring it online as a freezer, we just need to add the plant equipment. With the floor area that we have, we can accommodate twice as many volunteers as we currently have.”

Building at a brownfield site had its own challenges, but nothing that got in the way of what Wiley needed to do to help finish the job.

“The biggest challenge for Wiley and FareShare was building within an existing structure on the brownfield site and ensuring the building structure had sufficient strength to support the new infrastructure,” said Wiley project engineer Lauren Elliss. “Another challenge was that the site was located close to the Brisbane river, which meant we had tidal water challenges to solve.”

The build took from January to October 2018 but Wiley was involved with FareShare for some time before that, helping with site selection and feasibility, as well as helping to source suppliers and subcontractors. It was important that those helping with the build were willing to work at cost or discounted rates to help FareShare achieve its budget and time constraints.

And what were some of the learnings from the build? “It was more our ability to work collaboratively with our subcontractors and extended team that made this manageable,” said Elliss. “Transparency is the key. Everyone was contributing to the cause to get FareShare up and running to feed Queensland’s hungry.”

Elliss said the building could not have been completed under budget and on time without the help of ASKIN, Cool Times Industries, D&F Plumbing, PowerMe, REFPRO and WMA.