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Curtin medalists provide food for thought

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A couple who spent their retirement savings and overcame personal health hurdles to feed disadvantaged people across Perth have been awarded this year’s John Curtin Medal.

Beverley and John Lowe are the creators of Manna Industries, a charity that feeds homeless people in inner-city Perth.

John Curtin medalists Beverley and John Lowe.

From humble beginnings, Manna Industries is now the leading volunteer-operated food program in Western Australia.

Last year the organisation provided 53,000 meals to homeless people, 10,000 breakfasts to hungry school children and 4000 food parcels to families in need.

Every week, 200 volunteers give their time to Manna Industries.

The annual John Curtin Medal is the highest non-academic award offered by Curtin University. It is presented to outstanding citizens who exhibit the qualities of vision, leadership and community service demonstrated by wartime Prime Minister John Curtin.

The University’s Acting Vice-Chancellor Robyn Quin said the Lowes were very worthy recipients of the award.

“Mr and Mrs Lowe are an inspiring couple who put the needs of others first as part of their personal quest to make the world a better place,” Professor Quin said.

“Their strongly held beliefs have led them to helping people who are less fortunate than most, by providing them with a nourishing meal each day, while also imparting essential life skills to help these people become self sufficient.”

The couple moved to Perth in 1982 to access specialist support for their hearing-impaired son. Both worked in the disability sector and established a deaf singing choir.

In 1996, the Lowes noticed a group of homeless people sitting in an inner-city park in Northbridge, and Mrs Lowe decided to go home and make soup for them.

In their first eight years feeding homeless people, the couple cooked soup in their home kitchen and distributed it from their family car.

The Lowes spent their retirement funds to ensure everyone was fed.

Manna Industries now serves more than 1200 meals to homeless people each week.

“We created Manna Industries because we are passionate about helping others,” Mrs Lowe said.

“For our efforts to be recognised with such a prestigious award is very humbling.

“We make meals served with love and treat every person with respect and dignity, which is just as important as the meal.”

Mr and Mrs Lowe have experienced serious health problems, yet Manna Industries has survived, flourished and expanded.

In 2001, the organisation established a breakfast program, called Manna Kids, in five primary schools across Perth. More than 600 breakfasts are prepared each week, and this figure is growing.

In April 2010, Manna Kids opened a purpose-built cooking facility at Maddington Primary School to teach students how to prepare simple, healthy meals using fresh produce from the school’s kitchen garden.

Manna Kids also launched the Winter School Uniform Project in 2008 and has since provided warm winter uniforms to more than 1200 Perth primary school students.

In 2008, Mr and Mrs Lowe were each awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia.

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