FARESHARE, which runs Australia’s largest charity kitchens, delivered its 250,000th free, cooked, nutritious meal to those in need in the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland regions this week.
The food relief charity passed the milestone on Monday, October 19.
FareShare has been distributing healthy meals cooked with rescued meat and vegetables in its Abbotsford kitchen to frontline charities in the region since 2013.
About 35,000 free meals are delivered each year to more than 20 organisations including The Salvation Army in Traralgon, Morwell, Leongatha, Sale and Wonthaggi; the Fish Creek RSL, Baw Baw Food Relief, the Wellington Food Pantry, and Uniting Victoria and Tasmania.
In South Gippsland
Fish Creek RSL co-ordinator Ros Bryan, who has volunteered at the RSL for 30 years, provides FareShare meals to 100 people each month, including veterans, young families, people living with disabilities and the elderly.
She said the community benefitted significantly from receiving emergency food relief. In particular, she sees how FareShare meals improve the mental and physical health of veterans doing it tough.
“A lot of these people can’t get out to go to the shops. Some of them are traumatised from their service years – badly traumatised. It is not only the older veterans. We have veterans from Afghanistan, Timor and Iraq who are much younger and need support.”
Ms Bryant takes FareShare meals, including casseroles, stews, and soups, to veterans and war widows in the area. She transports them in microwavable containers so she can heat them, providing the veterans with a warm, comforting meal.
“Without receiving a meal from FareShare, many of these people would starve.”
Ms Bryant explained how someone could deteriorate when they were getting by on little food or a low-quality diet.
“Without eating regular healthy meals, the first thing we notice is that our veterans lose energy, and nothing gets done. If they are not eating well, their energy levels go, and they just sit and watch telly,” Ms Bryant said.
“Getting Fareshare meals also makes them happy. They wait for us at the door to deliver the meals.
The meals really are keeping them alive.”
Salvation Army Wonthaggi Doorways Program leader, Amy Graham, said it was about dignity as well as nutrition.
The service is open twice a week and fed an average of 200 people each week.
Ms Graham said the increase in need for food relief had seen the Salvation Army in Wonthaggi handing out FareShare meals to those in need in between their normal visits. Recently, it has run out of FareShare meals each month due to increased demand.
“The nutritional value of the FareShare meals is very high and good for people who can’t cook. Instead of having two-minute noodles, they can combine a FareShare meal with rice and feed a family,” she said.
“It gives someone dignity for them to have a home-baked meal that is good for them and fills their belly.”
FareShare chief executive Marcus Godinho said the partnership had provided sustained access to cooked, healthy meals for many vulnerable people.
“Regular, nutritious meals are not only filling, they help keep people physically, emotionally and mentally healthy and provide hope in challenging times,” Mr Godinho said.