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Muslim women serving free food during COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne

A group of Muslim women have started to prepare free meals every Friday for people affected by COVID-19 in Victoria. Source: Supplied

A group of Muslim women in Victoria has stepped up to help the community by serving free food to the needy while Melbourne remains under stage-3 lockdown - it's second in four months.

In an effort to support the community during the current challenging times due to COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne, a group of women volunteers is preparing free meals every Friday for anyone who is hungry.

“Students, families, refugees and people from all walks of life come and take the food we prepare,” Afshan Mantoo, Chairperson of Muslim Women’s Council of Victoria Inc. told SBS Urdu.

“Businesses are closed, there is no work. It is very hard for anyone to survive in the pandemic.”

“We decided to help the community by providing free food to those in need.

“There is a stereotype of women in hijab that they are not doing anything for the community," she adds.

When someone takes food, they say, ‘oh! a Muslim woman is doing something’; it feels good.

Food preparation starts from early Friday morning and is ready for pick up in the afternoon.
Food preparation starts from early Friday morning and is ready for pick up in the afternoon.

The group consists of health professionals, lawyers and teachers who are donating their time and money to help the community.

“Every Friday morning, we cook food and prepare takeaway packs that are ready by 2 pm.  They are large packs and can last for 2-3 days, enough for the whole weekend.” Ms Mantoo says.

Moreland city council in Victoria has provided the volunteer group with a commercial kitchen to prepare the food.

Ms Mantoo says the food consists of meats and staples with dishes such as chicken korma, rice and lentil soups.

We want to show everyone that we are part of the community, we share the pain and we want to do something about it too.

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the group takes special measures during the meal preparation.

“We take extra precautions as we prepare food for the community including temperature check, hand washing, social distancing along with wearing masks and gloves," she says.

Once the food is prepared it is packed and placed on a table, ready for the people to take it.

“What is special about this effort is that it is not just the Muslims that take food but there are people from all backgrounds including Nepalis, Sikhs, Indians, and Anglo-Australians," says Ms Mantoo.

Food is prepared and left on the table to avoid physical contact.
Food is prepared and left on the table for pickup to avoid physical contact.

Victoria is currently facing a resurgence of COVID-19 infections, forcing the whole of metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire in a second stage-3 lockdown.

Premier Daniel Andrews has said there are no plans to escalate Victoria's restrictions to Stage 4 at this time, but he is not ruling out the possibility. 


The state's Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said it was possible the state had still not reached its peak.

"It's a big number. It needs to turn around. In some ways, I expected it to turn around this week. But as I always said, it's no guarantee. It's upon all of us to be able to turn this number around," Prof Sutton said.

Afshan Mantoo says the number of people who seek free food is growing and the volunteer group plans to continue preparing meals every Friday.

“We plan to continue this effort for the next six months and if anybody is interested please come along and take the food.”

Residents in metropolitan Melbourne are subject to stay-at-home orders and can only leave home for essential work, study, exercise or care responsibilities. People are also advised to wear masks in public.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

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