• Here's how to use the power of food and cooking to help tackle poverty in Australia. (E+/Getty Images)
There are plenty of ways to put your home cooking skills, love of food and desire to make a difference to good use. Here are five food initiatives you can get involved with that aim to tackle poverty.
By
Yasmin Noone

7 Aug 2019 - 11:38 AM  UPDATED 7 Aug 2019 - 11:38 AM

There’s no single quick fix that will reverse Australia’s homelessness problem or fully restore social equality for people of all cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds nationwide.

But there are many positive food-based initiatives that people can participate in to help tackle poverty, homelessness and hunger.

Here are just some of the programs, operating throughout Australia, that use food as a means for social change.

1. Make 5,000 sandwiches in an hour and help hungry kids

Home cooks with skilled sandwich hands can put their know-how to good use by volunteering with the food-centric organisation, Eat Up.

The workings of this non-profit are based on the realisation that too many young school children are currently battling hunger. Eat Up volunteers, therefore, aim to overcome childhood social disadvantage by making and delivering thousands of lunches to hungry kids at schools throughout Australia every month. Since 2013, the organisation reports, it’s delivered over 500,000 lunches to disadvantaged school children.

Fast and fun-filled public sandwich-making events, held throughout the country, are a regular occurrence on the Eat Up social calendar. It’s here that volunteers of all ages are able to get involved in making 5,000 sandwiches within an hour.

Similar corporate and school-based challenges can also be organised upon request.

To find out more information about upcoming sandwich-making events or to donate to the cause, visit Eat Up online

2. Join a professional chef and cook to feed the homeless  

Providing food to those who are hungry is important, but so is the need to educate everyday Australians about the complicated issues associated with nationwide poverty.

The food-based project, Urban Seed Kitchens, is a collaboration between GoodInc, The Big Umbrella, Walker Corporation and various food rescue companies around Melbourne. It aims to combine the need to educate people about homelessness with the act of feeding the homeless.

Urban Seed Kitchens runs corporate workshops which pairs volunteers with a professional chef. The group then works together in a commercial kitchen to create wholesome meals made from rescued ingredients. During the workshop, participants also learn about the issues of food waste, food security and homelessness in Australia. 

The hope is that participants will connect to people in need and, through the loving act of cooking for someone else, exercise community-wide care and compassion for all.

The restaurant-quality meals, created by volunteers during a session, are then delivered to community support agencies and homeless individuals.

The hope is that participants will connect to people in need and, through the loving act of cooking for someone else, exercise community-wide care and compassion for all.

According to Urban Seed Kitchens online, every year the organisation creates 180,000 meals, works with 8,000 corporate volunteers and 80-plus charities, and rescues 260 tonnes of food.

To find out more about how to get involved with Urban Seed Kitchens, visit the organisation online.

3. Eat chutney to help disadvantaged women find a job

The mother and son team behind Eat Me Chutneys, an Australian grassroots organisation that converts wonky rejected fruits into rescued chutneys, has taken its food mission to another level.

The business – run by Ankit Chopra and his mother Jaya – is focused on generating social, economic and environmental benefits. One way it does this is by providing employment to female disadvantaged job seekers who are currently struggling to re-enter the workforce.

“Our employment program aims to develop living skills and provide women with a new-found sense of purpose and meaning in their lives,” the Eat Me Chutneys website reveals. “It intends to build independence and promote a healthy reintegration back into the community, as valued and participating members.” 

“Our employment program aims to develop living skills and provide women with a new-found sense of purpose and meaning in their lives.”

Just by making and selling chutneys, the organisation has mentored 11 graduates and employed one woman through the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. It’s also donated over 1400 chutney jars to charities, nationwide, since its inception in 2012.

For more information about social and environmental goals fuelling the Eat Me Chutneys business, visit the organisation's website.

Chutneys with a conscience
Perfection prejudice is rife – but it’s being kicked to the curb by Eat Me Chutneys, a Sydney-based mother and son duo saving imperfect produce from Destination Landfill. It's nail-biting time for the pair: they've got five days left to reach a fundraising target.

4. Help to organise to host hunger banquet at your local school 

Children living in Australia, who are food secure, are given the opportunity to learn about what food poverty really means through Oxfam’s Hunger Banquets program.

Schools throughout the country are encouraged to get involved in hosting a hunger banquet for students during term three of four this year, to coincide with World Food Day on October 16. In essence, a hunger banquet is a lunch backed by a first-hand social lesson on food inequality.

“The students then witness, first-hand, the disparity in food provision between the rich and poor.”

“Every diner gets randomly assigned a wealth status [representing high, middle and low-income regions of the globe] and they eat accordingly – a wealthy meal or poor meal,” Oxfam says online. 

Around 10 per cent of students are given a high wealth meal, 50 per cent enjoy a medium wealth meal and the remaining 40 per cent eat a low wealth meal. “The students then witness, first-hand, the disparity in food provision between the rich and poor.”

Oxfam describes the banquets as a lunch experience students will “never forget.”

To find out more about how to get involved in a Hunger Banquet this year, visit Oxfam Australia online. 

5. Spend $2 a day on food and no more

If you want to take action on poverty and feel what it feels like to go without life’s culinary delights, then participating in the Live Below the Line is a fundraising campaign for you.

The campaign’s challenge is clear-cut: feed yourself on $2 a day for five days and raise money for people living below the poverty line at the same time.

“For us, Live Below the Line is all about creative cooking, rationing and caffeine deprivation: we know it’s just a glimpse into what life is like for people in poverty, not a real experience of it," the campaign website says. "But we know what we do has a real impact.”

How to make two-minute noodles more nutritious for those who are homeless
This is just one of the life skills that Melbourne's The Living Room teaches in their free classes, with the aim of putting good food in the hands of the homeless.

Since the challenge first started in 2010, participants have raised over $10 million for poverty-fighting initiatives. Money raised through the initiative helps to fund education programs in Cambodia, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea.

To find out more about the challenge, visit Live Below the Line's website. 


Homelessness Week 2019 runs until 10 August. It aims to raise awareness about homelessness and the action needed to achieve enduring solutions. To learn more, visit Homelessness Australia online. 

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