Some of Melbourne's culinary enterprises are assessing the needs of the community and calling upon the more fortunate to ensure others don't go hungry.
Melbourne institution, the Moroccan Soup Bar, is now operating for pickups and deliveries only. Showing her restaurant is more than just a business, owner and chef Hana Assafiri is offering a community service at a time when thousands of Victorians need support. When the first lockdown began Assafiri and her staff immediately created a campaign to feed health workers, delivering over 8,500 meals, in six weeks, to local hospitals.
Now that Melbourne is under stage 4 restrictions, Assafiri is once more demonstrating her compassion by sharing nutritious fare with those who are experiencing hardship. She knows that people are struggling and vehemently believes that nobody should go hungry because of the circumstances we are in: "If we have a dollar, we want to be able to share it with those who don't."
"If we have a dollar, we want to be able to share it with those who don't."
The message is spread through social media. People in need can get in touch and the restaurant will have a meal for them. They'll even deliver within a 5km radius. "Kindness in a crisis is second nature to women," says Assafiri. "Now is the time when your convictions matter. It's when you peel away all the noise, and when what is at stake is the basic dignity and people's capacity to survive."
The Moroccan Soup Bar's staunch community also contributes, by buying a dinner pack and adding a donation meal through the pay-it-forward link on the website.
Sibling Cafe, a not-for-profit social enterprise which usually provides training for the socially excluded, is delivering grocery packs to vulnerable Victorians. Operations manager Joanna Reilly knew there would be many people who would appreciate food relief while the state was in crisis. She says members of their community have donated funds which have helped maintain the business and kept their suppliers afloat and staff employed.
Sibling Cafe works with other community organisations to provide meals for women and children, from migrant and refugee backgrounds, experiencing family violence. To help a family in need, a home-cooked meal is $10, staples for a day are $7.50 and one whole kitchen restock is $100.
Quat Quatta in Ripponlea found themselves in despair when COVID-19 restrictions meant holding large weddings was no longer an option. Many of the staff were impacted immediately because casual shifts evaporated and their temporary visa status rendered them ineligible for government assistance. General manager Alex Thornton and his team created a drive-through in their circular driveway to make use of surplus stocks of food.
After 50 years operating a wedding venue, the family-owned business has shown exactly how caring a family they are, providing meal packages for their staff. They then opened the takeaway for the community, with all profits providing meals for the needy. Through the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Quat Quatta has donated over 8,000 of its slow-cooked lamb shoulders, ginger soy salmon and decadent chocolate brownies (and more) to students, the disabled and the homeless. "COVID-19 has forced this upon us, but it's something we'll continue to do," says Thornton.
In such a dark time for our beloved city that thrives on food and social connection, it's a ray of light that vulnerable people are not forgotten. Let's hope these programs that have evolved so quickly during this time of crisis become a normal part of operating a foodie business, once restrictions are lifted.