Community organisations serve culturally appropriate meals to locked-down residents in Melbourne

Sikh volunteers outside public hosuing

A coalition of community organisations have been delivering food every day to 9 public housing towers in Melbourne, since the towers’ residents were subjected to a ‘hard lockdown’ last weekend.

Many different cultures are represented in the residential community of the towers, prompting several organisations to carefully consider what kind of meals they would provide as part of their support efforts.

Sikh Volunteers Australia have been serving up hot meals on-site in Flemington and Kensington since midday Sunday. The organisation has been supporting vulnerable populations 7 days a week throughout the COVID-19 crisis, including people who have lost their jobs, people self-isolating and in quarantine, international students and single parents.

“On Saturday evening, we started receiving calls – the [tower residents] asked us to come and help,” said Manpreet Singh. “At Sunday lunchtime, we arrived here and Victoria Police co-operated with us. We served 1325 meals that first day.”

“People come down [from their apartments] to get tested, and then they take the food.”

The Sikh Volunteers provide vegetarian and vegan food to residents, which is suitable for those who eat halal.

In addition, the catering arm of Footscray-based Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) is delivering 1000 meals a day as part of a community food network in partnership with Victorian Trades Hall and the Victorian Government. The network is delivering a total of 3000 meals a day to public housing residents in lockdown.

ASRC employs people from refugee backgrounds and have qualified chefs donating their time. They have added a second shift to help meet the need.

The meals are delivered to an allocated place on the site of public housing, and distribution is being arranged by the Victorian Government.

ASRC CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis said: “ASRC Catering is a social enterprise with expertise in cooking and delivering nutritious, culturally inclusive food. We hope our meals will support families with culturally appropriate basic needs to feel respected, cared for and supported by the Melbourne community.”

The Twitter account Updates from the Blocks, which is run by the refugee organisation RISE, praised the volunteer efforts, tweeting on Monday: “Food and supplies are coming in, thanks to the amazing work of volunteers both in and outside, and communities across Melbourne donating and organizing.”

Sikh Volunteers have also been providing food to all community volunteers, medical staff and police officers on-site at the towers since arriving on Sunday.

Photo: Sikh Volunteers Australia

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