A WA initiative is easing the hunger pains and social isolation of the homeless by converting leftover food into delicious meals.
Food Rescue highlights the power of & as they connect supermarkets, cafes and a myriad volunteers to collect and distribute food for Perth’s homeless.
Being homeless comes with a raft of problems that are unimaginable for most Australians. Facing many is hunger, with 90 percent of Australian centres for the disadvantaged reporting they don’t have enough food to meet the demand.
WA-based initiative Food Rescue, run by Uniting Care West, is helping abate this issue by redistributing some of the $5.2 billion dollars worth of food that would otherwise be wasted. Last financial year, 480,000 kilograms of fresh fruit and vegetables were collected from 46 Perth supermarkets and 42 ad hoc food donors. It was then packaged by various groups of volunteers (from senior citizens to high school groups) and delivered (by volunteer truck drivers) to 71 Perth charities including homeless centres, women’s refuges, drug and alcohol refuges, Indigenous Australians and youth at risk.
Their recent Cargo Carts Project extends beyond the supermarket and has CBD cafes on board, who provide unsold sandwiches, rolls and wraps. Food Rescue Manager Julie Broad spotted unused bike carts in the warehouse and knew they had to be used.
“I saw these carts and I thought, these are precious, they have got to be used,” Julie said. “I knew we wouldn’t have been given approval to ride bikes and our corporate volunteers would have been unlikely to receive approval to ride them around the city so the Mosman Park Men’s Shed offered to reconfigure them at no cost into these amazing push carts.”
Julie then spent eight months bringing together cafes, volunteers and recipients of the food. Not only are local cafes acting as food donors, 18 companies in the CBD and are regularly donating staff and four nearby schools send students for two hours between two and four pm on a weekday to pick up the food and deliver it back to 100 St Georges Terrace for collection.
“The volunteers get so proud pushing the carts and people come up to them in the street and ask them what they’re doing,” Julie says.
The food is then delivered to nearby homeless centres where it is very well received.
“The homeless appreciate the food so much, because it is in addition to the soup kitchens on offer,” Julie explains. “The cargo cart gives them a choice of really delicious food and when you’re homeless, that can be really special to have a choice.”
While Food Rescue makes huge inroads into bringing food to those who desperately need it, Julie believes it goes beyond feeding people and provides a way to connect them and lift their spirits.
“Individuals and families come to some of the centres to have a family meal and you see these people who feel very marginalised and sadly don’t have a sense of community because of their situation,” Julie says. “It’s one of the greatest gifts we can give them is to include them, I think that’s where they really miss out.”
And it’s not only the food’s recipients who are being connected, the volunteers behind the project are benefiting in unexpected ways simultaneously.
“Senior citizens who felt isolated at home with not enough to do have become a part of the Food Rescue team,” Julie says. “The Thursday morning group at the Belmont warehouse for instance all bring cakes, drink coffee and tea, and chat away for about an hour after they finish sorting the fruit. They’re all great mates now and everyone knows everyone, it’s great.”
Recently, Food Rescue has seen a new influx of volunteers who are searching for a way to give back to the community as they’re faced with their own challenges.
“Executives of mining companies who have lost their jobs and made redundant are giving back through Food Rescue, and I think it’s a way of keeping them afloat mentally,” Julie says. “They’re delivering food to these homeless people and it makes them go, gosh my life’s not that bad after all.”
As Food Rescue converts potentially wasted food into incredible meals for those less fortunate, they draw heavily on the ‘power of &’ as they connect businesses, schools and volunteers into their plight to make the world a better place.
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