Low Cost Grocer

The Staples Bag is Inner Sydney’s first low-cost grocer that lightens the load for people doing it tough.

 Sydney’s ongoing housing affordability crisis and high living costs have hit low-income groups particularly hard, leading an innovative social enterprise to open up in an inner Sydney suburb with high homelessness rates.  

Not-for-profit Settlement Services International (SSI) has partnered with Mission Australia to open The Staples Bag Camperdown – inner Sydney’s first low-cost grocer that provides high-quality nutritious food staples, while also saving an average of two tonnes of food from landfill every week. SSI’s General Manager of Service Delivery Community, Karen Bevan, highlighted the importance of initiatives like The Staples Bag in helping people on lower incomes to access low-cost food. “With rising costs of living in Sydney, The Staples Bag is committed to supplying affordable food staples to those in Sydney who need it most,” Ms Bevan said. The grocer launched on September 11 at Common Ground Sydney, Mission Australia’s six-storey residential building that provides vital housing and wrap-around support services for people who have experienced chronic homelessness and individuals and families with low to moderate-incomes. Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said the social enterprise would be a great resource for residents living at Common Ground and for other people in the area who were doing it tough. “Too many people in our community are struggling daily to afford life’s basic essentials, and are often forced to leave important items off their shopping list just so they can make ends meet,” he said.  

The Staples Bag will help to ease this burden and will offer an opportunity for people experiencing financial difficulty to do their weekly groceries at a fraction of the cost.” As well as offering low-cost groceries, The Staples Bag will provide hands-on work experience to people experiencing unemployment, including Common Ground Sydney resident, Susie*. “Working at The Staples Bag gives me a positive, meaningful role and something to look forward to each week. This has had a great impact on my mental health,” Susie said. SSI’s The Staples Bag promotes financial inclusion in the broader community, with volunteering and employment opportunities at The Staples Bag offering people a chance to acquire the life skills that help job seekers find, and keep, a job. 

The launch of The Staples Bag in Camperdown will include a Brazilian barbeque and a “Disaster Chef Championship” cook-off, with teams of local dignitaries, staff and Common Ground tenants competing to create nutritious, tasty dishes using affordable, rescued groceries from the new store. “The cook-off is going to be a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to putting my cooking skills to the test,” said Mr Toomey. The Camperdown grocer is The Staples Bag’s second store in Sydney, with another store in Campsie in Sydney’s West. The Staples Bag also holds frequent pop-up stalls in high-need areas around Sydney. 

*Name changed to protect the identity of the people Mission Australia helps.