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When is a mess helpful? When it’s Fresh Mess!

Martina Taliano

In the build up to Christmas every year I’m reminded about how lucky so many of us truly are.

If you have a roof over your head, family and friends and enough good food to eat then you are one of the lucky ones. That doesn’t take away from the ‘first world problems’ we experience every day, who doesn’t love a good whinge about the lid not sitting properly on your takeaway café latte! When my family asked me what I would like for Christmas I was stumped, there is honestly nothing that I need and Im lucky in that I have lots of things that I want.

Let me tell you about a place that is helping people who don’t have as many advantages as I do.

Fresh Mess is a partnership between Richmond Fellowship ACT and Argyle Community Housing to provide fresh food to people living with mental heath issues. Located at Ainslie Village they are open every Sunday between 1pm-3pm and for the minimal cost of $10 and a promise to volunteer a few hours once each season, people can access fresh fruit and vegetables and share a healthy cooked lunch and a cup of tea/coffee.

fresh mess

Most of the food is donated by Oz Harvest or donations however items such as eggs and cheese are required to purchased to supplement the supplies each person receives each week. Meat and other items are purchased to provide a healthy meal each Sunday. The Community Services Directorate is currently allowing Fresh Mess access to the kitchen at no cost.

People come together to eat for many different occasions, who doesn’t love to share a meal or coffee with a friend? Fresh Mess has provided an opportunity for people to catch up, meet new friends, contribute to the running of the project via volunteering, learn new skills in the cooking of the lunch and serving of coffee/tea. People have the chance to work towards gaining a Certificate II in Food Preparation. A Community Garden is near completion which will add to the produce available to Co-op members.

Originally funded with an Innovation Grant through the Capital Health Network Partners In Recovery, Fresh Mess has only a few weeks until they run out of money to be able to provide the additional benefits such as a cooked lunch, eggs, cheese and tea and coffee.

Fresh Mess has made a huge difference to the lives of Canberrans.

I chatted with Mark who told me that Fresh Mess had been a life-saver. “Before Fresh Mess came here I would just stay in my room all the time. I hardly ate at all because it meant leaving my house. But then I started coming here and helping out and now I’m one of the people who helps the new people who start here. Now I have fresh food that I eat every week and can make myself a sandwich at home”


The Coordinator of Fresh Mess, Katrina, said that having someone there to welcome new people and show them how it all works is really important.

“When people first come here you can see that lots of them are nervous. It can be daunting for people to even get here so its important that it’s not overwhelming. Fresh Mess has made a difference to the community and we need to make sure it’s able to continue. If we don’t get any financial help in the next few weeks our Christmas Party on Sunday 20 December will be the last time we are able to open. With The Blue Door services no longer running people really need us to continue. People come from all over Canberra, we need this.”

If you have any doubt in your mind that this project is needed in our community I urge you to take a trip to Ainslie Village next Sunday.

So, what can you do?

Fresh Mess needs only $15,000* to run each year. It’s not pennies but it’s not a fortune either.

  • If you work for a private company you could suggest that they sponsor Fresh Mess for a month or two.
  • You might consider donating to Fresh Mess in someone’s name this Christmas.
  • Instead of sending Christmas cards you could donate that money to Fresh Mess and send an email instead.
  • If you have contacts with a butcher, a bakery, a fresh food grocer, an egg farmer or dairy you could let them know about Fresh Mess and urge them to donate or reduce the cost for Fresh Mess.
  • If you have a few hours spare on a Sunday, even once a month, you could consider volunteering your time at Fresh Mess. If you have skills in the kitchen or garden they could certainly put you to good work! Fresh Mess welcome kind and community spirited people to come and help in lots of different ways.

At the very least, please share this information with your friends and anyone that might be able to help keep Fresh Mess open and helping people in our community. Please Share this article and Like and Share the Fresh Mess Facebook page to tell people about the great work they do.


One of the great things about Canberra is that we have so many people willing to lend a hand when times are tough. Fresh Mess is in a tough spot right now. Please do what you can to help them out.

Contact Katrina on 02 6221 9279 or 0499 490 299 for more information or visit their website.

*Less than 24hrs after this article was published, Fresh Mess received an anonymous donation of the full $15,000 needed to fund Fresh Mess for 2016, as well as many enquiries as to how to donate. Soon afterwards, Canberra based Rural Funds Management (RFM) revealed that they had donated the $15,000, which will enable Fresh Mess to continue providing healthy meals and promoting positive choices in 2016.

RFM Executive Manager, Andrea Lemmon, said the local company founded in 1997 was proud to provide the assistance to a worthy cause.

“While RFM is a national company, we were founded in Canberra and remain connected to the local community. We know that good mental health starts with a good diet and healthy living. We are proud to support Fresh Mess and its important work,” she said.

Fresh Mess are still open for donations and seeking volunteers.

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