There are several ways of helping to feed neighbours in the Geelong community and here is one I hadn't heard of before. Spare Meals. The story is in the Geelong Advertiser.
Jodie Whittaker: Generosity feeds a community need
Spare Meals Geelong founder
LONG ago, my husband and I scrimped and
saved for our house deposit.
Despite enormous financial restrictions, we were
immensely proud to establish a home we’d one day own. Eating two-minute noodles
or baked beans was a way of life.
We were warmly welcomed into our new area. As time
passed, our cosmopolitan neighbourhood regularly celebrated special events and
commiserated during hard times. The strong community network was forged over
shared tasty, exotic foods, prepared with love. Our financial struggles made
these feasts even more special.
Across the road from us lived the most beautiful
elderly Italian couple, Antonio and Concetta, whose property erupted with a
vast array of delicious fruits and vegetables. They helped us enormously by
contributing some of their bounty. That generosity enabled the creation of
tasty, low-cost, nourishing foods, especially valued during the leaner years.
Our community still bands together with food in
support for one another. It’s not uncommon to see a neighbour walking around
the street with a pot of soup, a lasagne or curry.
When a new child arrives, if it’s suspected someone
might be having a tough time, as community members are unwell or should someone
seem over stretched or unable to prepare meals for themselves, we still share
our food and nourish the neighbourhood.
The internet has changed our notion of community.
Having online access means the number of locals in our region that we can
interact with is dramatically higher.
Thanks to a heart-warming, innovative idea,
neighbourhood food sharing practices occur on a much, much larger scale. Spare
Meals Geelong is a Facebook page encouraging community food sharing.
Just over a year ago, the group’s founder, Tina
Taylor, noticed a huge range of “free stuff” online pages, where people with
useful but unwanted items could give them away. She realised the same concept
could be used for excess food.
All too often clearing out the pantry, over
ordering, making a meal fussy eaters refuse to touch or having an overly
productive veggie garden, means good food ends up in the bin.
Rather than having casserole five days in a row,
Spare Meals Geelong shares it with any one in need.
Spare Meals Geelong rehomes good unwanted
ingredients and cooked meals so nourishing food isn’t wasted. The group of
volunteers operate the page, which has almost 3600 members.
Spare Meals Geelong eases the burden on other
regional food support providers by giving local people doing it tough free
emergency food support.
Every week, volunteers create, source and share up
to 500 meals through registered community kitchens and store food across
distribution sites. There’s presently more than enough food to assist everyone
who needs it.
One of the Spare Meals Geelong Facebook site
administrators, Kristy Cooper explained it works.
“We just look at it is as good old Aussie mateship.
For anyone who could do with some assistance putting food onto their table.
There’s no judgment and no need to explain your situation. You don’t need to
provide concession entitlements, ID or meet any criteria,” she said.
To get help, simply join the Spare Meals Geelong
Facebook site and inbox an administrator. They’ll help arrange a time for you
to collect your meals from one of the collection points dotted across Geelong.
The service is a private, discreet and respectful way to receive assistance
without judgment or embarrassment.
Ms Cooper said that all Spare Meals Geelong asks for
in return is that once the person’s situation improves they pay the favour
forward and share some food with others in need.
“That might be with providing a small supermarket
gift card, sharing the page or remembering us with any excess from a future
freezer clear out.”
The biggest challenge Spare Meals Geelong faces is a
shortage of containers to store and deliver meals.
“To continue feeding our people in need, the group
would really appreciate any freezer and microwave safe containers. Clear out
your plastics cupboard and we’ll happily accept your excess containers,” Ms
Rectangular take-away style containers are ideal,
but any suitable containers, or financial contributions towards their purchase,
would be greatly appreciated.
For additional information or to contribute to Spare
Meals Geelong’s outstanding work, please join their Facebook site.
Whittaker is a freelance writer. She is an alumna of Deakin University and
interned with the Geelong Advertiser. Follow her on Twitter @Whittaker_Jodie