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Perth soup kitchen counts cost of feeding backpackers

Manna Inc's Bev Lowe said her organisation cannot afford to continue feeding backpackers.

Manna Inc’s Bev Lowe said her organisation cannot afford to continue feeding backpackers.

Backpackers are costing a soup kitchen in Perth over $30,000 a year, its co-founder says.

Manna Inc’s Bev Lowe and her husband John packed up and sold their farm to set up the organisation, which has spent decades feeding those less fortunate in Perth’s CBD.

Ms Lowe has told the Irish Echo that up to 10 Irish backpackers frequent their soup kitchen in Weld Park each night and with each meal costing $10 to make, the organisation is down over $30,000 a year from providing tourists with three-course meals.

Approximately 140 people a day are fed at the city soup kitchen six days a week, and Ms Lowe has revealed they simply cannot afford to keep on  feeding backpackers.

“We’re on the streets to feed the homeless – that’s why we’re there, we’re not there to feed people who are on holiday,” Ms Lowe said.

“It really doesn’t matter if they need the food – the fact is that backpackers are supposed to prove before they come into the country that they have sufficient money to support themselves.

“It’s nothing against the Irish, we just can’t afford to feed them, and I’m sorry if they’re finding it tough, but they really should have planned better. I certainly am not a person to deny a meal to anybody, but I have to feed those who are homeless and desperate first,” Ms Lowe said.

While Ms Lowe stressed that Irish backpackers are not the only tourists lining up for free meals, she did say they make up the majority of the backpackers visiting the Weld Park soup kitchen.

“I can understand how and why and all the rest, but we can’t afford it and they should be providing for themselves,” she said. “Unfortunately the Irish are easy to pick out because they have a strong accent.

“I have nothing against the Irish. My grandfather was an Irishman. I have Irish blood running through my veins. My grandfather was John Michael O’Leary – how much more Irish can you get?” she said.

“It is an embarrassment for the Irish and it’s an embarrassment for me, and it’s really hard on my team leaders because they don’t like to say no.”

She said Manna does not receive any government funding and relies on donations from the public to keep the organisation going.  “I have to raise this money – it doesn’t just fall out of the sky because somebody’s gracious and kind,” she said.

“We were farmers, we sold our farm to make this happen, and now we’re totally dependent on people’s generosity to feed the homeless.”

As two Manna vans pulled up at Weld Park in Northbridge on May 3, two Irishmen queued up to be fed alongside the homeless and helpless.

The two men, who had not come to the soup kitchen together, asked not to be named. They said they could not afford the price of food in Perth, and that they rely on the free meals provided by Manna.

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