CafeSmart organiser Streetsmart Australia has provided more than 5400 meals to vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic through its SmartMeals program.
StreetSmart Australia says charity meals programs are shut across the country. With gatherings restricted and older volunteers protecting their health, food security for vulnerable Australians is an emerging challenge. At the same time restaurants and cafés are closing or reducing hours. This is making people with limited resources vulnerable to poverty, hunger, and homelessness.
“These are rapidly changing times and there is great uncertainty for community services, and even more for the people we support,” says Patrick Lawrence of the First Step Program in St Kilda, Victoria.
“It’s been great to be able to offer our clients a nourishing sandwich. It’s been greatly appreciated by our vulnerable clients and has doubtless had a positive impact on their mental and physical health.”
SmartMeals was fast tracked on 30 March, which utilises the unused capacity of local cafés and restaurants to provide meals for their local overstretched homeless and community groups.
“The program has had a positive impact paying for two chefs for the week who are both temporary visa holders and will not fall under the current JobKeeper or JobSeeker programs,” says Sean Kierce of Ladro in Fitzroy, Victoria.
“It also helps the charity feed their clients with less pressure on their resources. The St Mary’s chef and myself have formed a bond. He feels he has someone to help him prepare and supply enough food with variety for the centre’s clients.”
According to StreetSmart Australia, nine cafés/restaurants and charity partnerships have been set up, but SmartMeals desperately need funds to keep going.
“SmartMeals enables people to receive a free meal and that is critical at this time. Linking a café with capacity with Uniting Prahran through Streetsmart is a win-win-win for all involved – but more so for our customers,” Mike Scott of Uniting Prahran in Victoria.
For 17 years, StreetSmart says its community impact has been built on the generosity of the people in hospitality. Together, DineSmart and CafeSmart were supported by more than 3000 hospitality businesses. Through SmartMeals, StreetSmart also hopes to help them.
“Jobs have definitely been secured with this program, across the team from prep, to making each morning and then the delivery team. It’s given us the confidence to have an extra person there all week,” says Jackie Middleton of Earl Canteen.
SmartMeals is part of StreetSmart Australia’s COVID-19 Emergency Reponse Fund, which provides grants to small grassroots organisations.
For more information, visit www.streetsmartaustralia.org/smartmeals