It all started with a lasagne that Alex Dekker made for his sister, Pietra. Now, he's feeding hundreds of health workers every week.
Dekker tells SBS Food, "My sister at the time was working in the COVID-19 screening clinic at Monash Hospital as a doctor there.
"I was calling her when she was coming back home from work, and she mentioned she hasn't really been eating and was subsisting mostly on muesli bars."
He decided to help out by cooking a few meals for her and her housemate, also a doctor.
Since their parents are both immunocompromised, the Dekker siblings haven't been able to spend time with them for a while, and most likely will not see them again for another six to 12 months.
"My sister and I, being away from home and not being able to see our parents, we have to watch out for each other. It simply started with me watching out for her," he says.
"When I was doing that, I thought there must be a lot of other people in a similar situation, but who don't have a support network like she does to be able to feed her and make sure she's staying healthy."
So he posted on the Adopt a Healthcare Worker Facebook group and rapidly received hundreds of requests for meals.
At first a one-man operation, Dekker eventually asked his friends for help. Alex Makes Meals now counts over one hundred volunteers who produce thousands of meals every week that are delivered to hospitals around Melbourne.
The demand is so high that Dekker decided to put his university studies on hold to devote his entire time to the operation. "I leave the house at about six in the morning and come back at 9:30-10:30pm," he says.
Several restaurants, like The Hardware Club, have volunteered their kitchens and staff to make more meals.
"We want to provide for as many health professionals as needed because these people are keeping our love ones safe," says Dekker. "We deliver to hospitals, but not just to nurses and doctors, also to the admin staff there, the cleaners, the secretaries, to the people putting the extra hours and putting their life on the line to help us with the crisis."
"We want to provide for as many health professionals as needed because these people are keeping our love ones safe."
Some produce and ingredients are donated by organisations like Northpoint Centre, and the rest is bought wholesale with public donations. Meals like Thai curry, risotto, pasta and salads aim to be nutritious, tasty and easy to eat.
If you would like to help, you can donate at the Alex Makes Meals GoFundMe page. Dekker is looking for more professional chefs, commercial kitchen spaces and suppliers keen to donate large quantities of food.
He can be contacted at email@example.com.
More chefs feeding health workers
Despite taking a big hit in recent weeks, the hospitality industry has rallied around health workers.
In Melbourne, Moroccan Soup Bar's Hana Assafiri and Daughter in Law's Jessi Singh are among the several chefs sending meals to hospitals. In Brisbane, the Feed the Frontline initiative is raising money to provide meals for healthcare staff.
Across Australia, the Buy Them a Coffee fundraiser lets you shout a coffee to somebody on the frontline.