Moon Rabbit is an environmentally progressive social enterprise cafe in Preston, who we have been partnered with since their launch in early 2018. We’re incredibly proud of this partnership, and of the team at Moon Rabbit who constantly inspire us with their committed, passionate, innovative and generous approach to café life. Monday October 5 marks the launch of their mobile café, aptly named “On the Hop”, which will be servicing the inner north.
I vividly remember meeting Chris Lombardo, CEO of not-for-profit organisation Bridge Darebin, for the first time in late 2017. My colleague Gito and I met her for a coffee at our Brunswick East café, and she told us all about an exciting new project that her team was embarking upon.
The project was Moon Rabbit: a social enterprise café that would create practical training opportunities for learners with additional needs. From the very start, we knew that this was going to be a partnership to be proud of.
Bessie Marks, Chris Lombardo and Gito Gondowarsito at Moon Rabbit's launch in 2018
Chris spoke with such passion, clarity and enthusiasm and I left that meeting bright eyed, with a good dose of perspective and a heart as big as a house.
Moon Rabbit launched in early 2018, situated within Bridge Darebin HQ in Preston. The name stems from ancient folklore about the markings on the moon; in these stories, the generous moon rabbit offers himself for sacrifice for the greater good.
The cafe quickly earned a reputation for delicious, healthy locally-sourced food, delivered with conscientious, considered service. It has created a hub in the inner north: a safe, open and inclusive space for anyone to enjoy a coffee, a meal and a chat with the friendly team.
This year has been a busy one for Moon Rabbit, with the launch of their Bulk Foods Collective in March. This provides their community access to quality, affordable everyday pantry items.
A membership to the collective includes a discount on all pantry items, and promotes involvement through volunteering. Dry goods (including, of course, Padre Coffee) are sold by weight - to avoid wastage - and patrons bring their own containers to eliminate packaging waste.
This is one of the many ways Moon Rabbit innovatively supports the community whilst also fighting the good fight for the environment.
The wonderful Moon Rabbit team (L-R): Jack, Amelia, Cathie, Alli, Nancy and Sam
I spoke to Moon Rabbit’s general manager Sam Fisher about the latest venture the team has embarked upon: a mobile version of the Moon Rabbit we know and love, aptly named On the Hop. The van will be hitting the streets on Monday (October 5), thanks to partial funding from Darebin City Council.
Sam says a conscious decision was made to pair up with other social enterprises for the food offering, which has a Middle Eastern leaning. Focaccias, lamb koftas and hummus will be provided by Free to Feed, a food-focussed business which assists people seeking asylum to find meaningful employment using their knowledge and skills.
It also provides a valuable connection point between new arrivals and the community. Free to Feed alumnus Hamed, who opened his own café in Sunshine,Hamed’s Persian Kitchen, will be providing Persian bliss balls and a beautiful sour cherry tea syrup.Hamed’s business is fully run by refugees and asylum seekers.
Colourful pita breads will be provided by Richmond’sPick a Pokit,and the Moon Rabbit team will be cooking chickpea koftas to ensure vegan and vegetarian diets are catered for. Northcote Bakeshopwill also be providing their famous pies – because, as Sam says - “you can’t have a coffee van without a pie!”.
The menu is overwhelmingly inclusive, with the sweets menu also accommodating vegan and gluten-free requirements.
Perhaps one of the most amazing things aboutOn the Hop is that the team is tackling mobile coffee single use cup free! At the Moon Rabbit café, sustainability is a huge focus. The team won the 2019 Sustainability Award at the Darebin Community Awards, and for good reason.
They have worked with all their suppliers to reduce unnecessary packaging: for example, we deliver the coffee in reusable metal tins and Northcote Bakeshop supplies all the bread products in fabric bags.
Spent coffee grounds are donated to local community gardens and the team even has multiple worm farms for organic waste; with any additional food waste donated to community composts through Sharewaste.
For takeaway coffees, BYO reusable cups are preferred – and of course Moon Rabbit branded ones are available for purchase - but the café also has good stock of donated mugs and glass jars, that can be borrowed and returned on an honesty system.
Takeaway cup options - the three Bs: BYO, buy-in to The Cup Exchange, or borrow a jar
These practices will continue withOn the Hop, Sam explains, “which we’re all well aware is going to be a huge challenge. We’ve done really well in our home base, we know how to do it now, we know how to sell it.For us it wasn’t a question of yes or no, that’s really the only way we can do it now. So we’re just dedicated to finding solutions”.
The solution is The Cup Exchange (TCX), a subscription based circular solution. $3 buys you two cups in the system, at participating cafes, and cups are returned either back to the café or in conveniently located ‘drop boxes’.
Placements at On the Hop will also provide real-world training for students in the Tiered Training and Transition program, or TTT for short, which is run by Bridge Darebin.
This program is designed for learners with additional needs and provides work readiness training covering classroom-based activities, group work and practical placement in the café, the kitchen, and now the van.
At Padre Coffee, we’re honoured to contribute to this curriculum and share our collective knowledge with the TTT students. At the end of the program, which has been extended for 2021 to 20 weeks, students are assisted in transitioning to employment or further education.
We’re super proud to partner with the team at Moon Rabbit. They constantly prove that wonderful things can be achieved in the café environment with a few simple tweaks to standard operations.
The Preston community has proven that consumers are willing to accept and accommodate change and, furthermore, value businesses striving to be better.
As Sam says, “without our community we can’t do what we do, so we’re working on a circular economy: what goes around comes around and we help each other to live a little more waste free”. In our opinion, they are words to live by.
On the Hop Locations:
Keep up to date at moonrabbit.org.au
Mentioned in this article:
Free to Feed (freetofeed.org.au/)
Hamed’s Persian Kitchen (hamedspersiankitchen.com/)
Pick a Pokit (@pickapokit)
Share Waste (sharewaste.com/)
The Cup Exchange (tcx.org/)