Feed the need

While their restaurants struggle under COVID-19 restrictions, top chefs are finding purpose by preparing meals for people in need.       

5000 Meals CEO and founder Cath MacDougall says the project uses ingredients from donated produce and distributes meals to those who don’t always have access to food.

The volunteers meet twice a week to prepare meals for vulnerable people. Video: Amelia Searson.

Since COVID-19 hit, there has been a growing need for vulnerable people in the community to receive these meals.

“When we started the journey, we didn’t realise there’d be such a crucial need for these meals. 

“We started off with 500 meals, we now service 1500 meals a week,” Mrs MacDougall says.

She says the meals are donated to a range of community members in need.

“We feed the elderly in the Town of Bassendean and we also distribute to the Belmont community centre, Jacaranda.

“We also help families in crisis in the Midland area and also women’s refuges,” she says.

Mrs MacDougall says the project provides an opportunity for stood down chefs to share their craft, as they wait for their restaurants to return to normal.

“Even though their restaurants are shut, the community still needs their service – they make a big difference.”

Head Chef Shane Middleton. Photo: Amelia Searson.

Head chef of Fleur at the Royal Hotel, Shane Middleton, says while his restaurant has been closed, volunteering to make meals for vulnerable people has given him a new sense of purpose.

“If there’s a chance and an opportunity to help people in need, then I don’t see why people wouldn’t jump on it.”

He says the project helps those who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.

“With what’s going on, lots of people have lost fifty to sixty per cent of their income and the last thing they want to worry about is having to pay for food.

“It helps a lot with the elderly, people suffering from domestic violence… and it’s just a good way for them to have a restaurant [quality] meal, but at home, and still not have to worry about those little things.”

Volunteering alongside each other allows the chefs to maintain their connections, according to Mr Middleton.

“It’s kept our little family nice and close [since] we’ve got a lot of staff that aren’t eligible for [JobKeeper].

“We’ve brought them in and they’ve got meals out of it as well,” he says.

Chefs spend time together, despite their workplace being affected by restrictions. Photo: Amelia Searson.

Mrs MacDougall says while COVID-19 has thrown up many different things for the hospitality industry, it has given 5000 Meals an opportunity to solidify a place in the community.

“Through all that, we’ve been managing to have a place and a space for hospitality chefs and apprentices and students to come and be of service and have a purpose to create meals for a community in need.”

The volunteers are finding purpose by preparing these meals. Photo: Amelia Searson.