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Nourishing communities in times of hardship has more impact when driven by collaboration

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Nourishing communities in times of hardship has more impact when driven by collaboration.

FareShare, which operates one of Australia’s largest charity kitchens, recently delivered its 250,000th free, nutritious meal to the LaTrobe Valley and Gippsland regions.

It is a milestone worth reflecting on, particularly with the increasing need for food relief in these challenging economic times caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

While the meals were cooked by chefs and volunteers in FareShare’s Melbourne kitchen and transported by its volunteer drivers, FareShare cannot take sole credit for supporting communities in Gippsland.

The 36,000 meals per year, which are all cooked from rescued surplus food that would otherwise end up in landfill, were made possible through key corporate partnerships, philanthropic support and sector-wide collaboration, which sees large and small food organisations

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playing to their strengths.

Most of the food is donated by Woolworths and collected by FareShare from its stores and other businesses. SecondBite and Foodbank Victoria collect other surplus ingredients and distribute them to FareShare, which cooks them into healthy meals such as casseroles, curries, soups, quiches, and pastas before freezing them. This process stops the clock on the life of the rescued food meaning it can be distributed to vulnerable Australians without passing its use-by date.

The LaTrobe Valley and Gippsland program is supported by power company ENGIE and Trinity Families charitable fund, making it possible to send meals each month to more than 20 frontline food relief organisations who, in turn, pass on the meals to members of their communities.

These partnerships show what can be achieved through enduring and innovative collaboration. It is an efficient and effective way to provide people with healthy, wholesome meals.

There is no duplication of effort from those in the food relief sector because each organisation is doing what it does best and not trying to do everything on its own.

Collaboration gives continuity to the initiative, which has been running since 2013 and provides so much more than just meals. It provides hope in challenging times and helps improve the physical and mental wellbeing of those receiving the meals.

Traralgon Salvation Army minister Janine Skinner said her organisation started handing out FareShare meals about 18 months ago and the impact was immediate.

She said being able to offer full, nutritious meals during the height of the pandemic was “so special” as there are so many people struggling and having to choose between paying bills or feeding themselves or their families.

It is a decision no one should have to make.

Ros Bryant at Fish Creek RSL has been taking FareShare meals to veterans and war widows in the area for years. She knows that without the meals from FareShare “many of them would starve”. She said receiving the meals makes them happy and they “are keeping them alive”.

FareShare is committed to delivering the next quarter of a million meals to these frontline charities and to continue supporting those in need in their communities.

Meal recipients tell FareShare that receiving our meals makes them feel like someone has cared about their situation. They appreciate that a volunteer has taken the time to cook the food and other volunteers have taken the time to bring it to them.

Kindness nourishes the soul.

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