Working together the main ingredient for food relief

Community kitchens, food pantries, restaurant donated meals and door-to-door hamper delivery – Sydney’s response to make sure no one goes hungry.

Sydney Local Health District delivering Foodbank food hampers. Image: Sydney Local Health District

Sydney charities, volunteers, corporate business, and the public sector have been working together to help make sure everyone can access food and groceries.

From community kitchens, low-cost pantries, restaurant donated meals, to door-to-door hamper delivery and community facilities as distribution hubs, this is how Sydney’s food operations network has sprung into action.

The growing demand for food relief

Even before the pandemic, access to regular and nutritious food was an ongoing concern for many Sydneysiders. The City of Sydney’s Meals on Wheels delivers about 4,000 nutritious dishes every month to people at home and local charities do invaluable work to provide food relief in our local area through drop-in services, low-cost pantries, and outreach services.

Since March 2020, the demand for food relief has increased dramatically. Food insecurity has affected residents needing to self-isolate, those awaiting Covid-19 test results, and of course those who’ve suffered a loss of income and uncertain future.

Our role

Leading on from our 2020 food relief efforts, in July 2021 we invested up to $1.25 million to support food relief and other support efforts during the lockdown. We provided immediate support with donations to OzHarvest, Foodbank and SecondBite to help address increasing demand.

We also allocated $350,000 to community emergency quick response grants to support grassroots projects, supplied masks to vulnerable communities and connected people with mental health and social support services. Some of our venues, like Surry Hills and Newtown libraries and our community centres in Redfern and Woolloomooloo, have served as hamper distribution points to help local agencies and police since the 2021 lockdown.

Sydney City Police collect Foodbank hampers from Surry Hills Library to deliver on resident wellbeing check-ins.

“We’re working hard to connect organisations with the right resources and get food to those who need it,” said Safe City manager Rebecca Martin.

We can’t solve food insecurity of this scale alone.

How communities rallied together

Social enterprise First Nations Covid-19 Response is 1 of a number of community emergency quick response grants awarded to Aboriginal community organisations. First Nations Covid-19 Response originally launched as a social media support forum in March 2020 when food insecurity was on the rise. Thankfully, as the demand increased significantly so did offers of support.

“As a result of the grant, resources and food network connections, we’ve been able to expand our operations to better meet the growing needs of our community. Without our volunteers, the City of Sydney, Inner West Council, Plate It Forward and the Tin Humpy Cafe in Redfern we couldn't do this important work”, First Nations Covid-19 Response cofounder Coral Lever said.

Alasdair Grant from Viral Kindness with Coral Lever and Elley Meadows from First Nations Covid-19 Response distribute hampers from the Factory Community Centre in Waterloo

Another grant recipient, Viral Kindness, was re-established in 2021 through support from the City of Sydney, Counterpoint Community Services, Two Good Co and the Lendlease Foundation. Viral Kindness distributes more than 500 fresh fruit and vegetable hampers per week, including to many Aboriginal community organisations.

In Erskineville, social enterprise Parliament on King employs people seeking asylum and refugees to cook healthy meals in its commercial kitchen. Meals are passed onto One Meal and Deadly Connections to provide food relief for residents in Darlinghurst and Surry Hills.

Ravi Prasad from Parliament on King pictured with Carly Stanley and Keenan Mundine from Deadly Connections. Image: Parliament on King

Uniting Harris provides residents across Ultimo, Pyrmont and Glebe with CHEX community gift vouchers to purchase goods and services from partnering local businesses. As of October 2021, over 1,000 individuals and their families have redeemed close to 5,000 CHEX cards across 7 partnering local businesses. The initiative is community-led, with a team of local multicultural volunteers contributing over 3,500 hours of volunteer and pro-bono work – it’s a great model of supporting local businesses and giving people choice and dignity to shop.

Addison Road Community Centre delivers delicious, healthy and culturally appropriate food hampers curated by chef Kylie Kwong to isolated and food insecure households in the local area. Pocket City Farms ensured its urban farm produce has been put to good use with a 24/7 street-side pantry of fresh fruit and vegetables.

How we work with Australia’s 3 largest food relief suppliers

Our donation to OzHarvest, Foodbank and SecondBite has helped the 3 major food relief suppliers collaborate and ramp-up their services across our local area.

OzHarvest’s community kitchen on Crown Street, Surry Hills

OzHarvest opened a community kitchen in Surry Hills, providing nearby residents warm takeaway meals, drinks and food hampers 3 evenings a week. It also provides hampers to pop-up vaccination and testing sites with the support of the Sydney Local Health District in Redfern and Waterloo.

SecondBite partnered with Coles to provide a significant donation of bulk pantry items to local charities such as the Addi Road Food Pantry in Camperdown. It’s supplying Plate It Forward – a social enterprise employing those with lived experience of food hardship – to produce 1,500 meals a week to inner-city organisations.

And Foodbank has worked tirelessly to expand its agile response service and build the capacity of the local food operations network. It’s our first port-of-call for food-related community hotline requests, ensuring every single request is met. Foodbank also supplies hampers to key distributions points like our libraries and the Sydney Local Health District’s Aboriginal Cultural Response Team.

“The collaboration we’ve seen has created tremendous good will and trust between the communities and the Local Health District which is great news,” said Adam Loftus, Foodbank School Breakfast 4 Health and Agencies team leader.

It goes to show, as well as preventing hunger, food can provide such positive outcomes.

Over 20,000 food supplies and counting

Over 9,000 food hampers have been distributed, nearly 10,000 meals provided and 3,800 fresh fruit and vegetable bags supplied since August 2021 thanks to the work of OzHarvest, Foodbank, SecondBite and Viral Kindness. Core services like Meals on Wheels continue to operate, meeting a demand of over 12,000 meals across this period. The network’s collaborative effort, to work together to meet each and every need, is incredibly inspiring.

Beyond lockdown

Even as our restrictions ease, the economic impacts will be long-felt. If you’re a business and want to help, or want to volunteer your time, contact Or make a donation with OzHarvest’s Feed Sydney Appeal.

Our dedicated community hotline ensures people who contact us can get access to the help they need. We can link vulnerable individuals and groups to a network of over 60 agencies providing food support in our local area and will continue this great work well after the lockdown and restrictions have eased.

Posted . Last updated .

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