In the past year, more than 70% of food-insecure people went a whole day without eating at least once a week. Open Table is one community organisation working to make a difference via its community pantry and lunch events.
“Our volunteers welcome people as they arrive, offer them a delicious lunch, and everyone sits to enjoy the meal together,” says General Manager Angela O’Toole. “We often arrange seating outside when the weather is nice so everyone enjoys a meal and fresh air. The lunch is leisurely, some people choose to eat then leave, although many stick around for the conversation and to choose food to take home from our pantry.”
Sharing the surplus
Open Table is a not-for-profit community organisation with the dual purpose of reducing food insecurity and food waste.
Community pantry and lunch events are held weekly and run by volunteers. Local businesses donate their food surplus, with food rescue partner organisations contributing additional supplies. The program serves approximately 80 free meals every week.
“We make sure to accommodate dietary requirements; we have things on the menu each week that are gluten free, nut free, vegan and halal. We see mostly familiar faces, who all enjoy a new menu to choose from every week. That is the nature of cooking with whatever is donated – it’s always new and varied!” says Angela.
“We have lots of students who appreciate a healthy meal to fuel their studies at the library. Often people who arrive alone but are interested in meeting new people will sit with our volunteers, which creates a bit of an icebreaker at the events.
“What we look for as a sign of success is empty plates and smiling faces; so far we are achieving that which is great to see.”
A pantry for the people
Open Table received a $15,000 Community Grant to fund its community pantry, which distributes hundreds of kilograms of fresh food to around 176 food-insecure people in inner north Melbourne every week. Eggs, citrus fruits and garlic are the most popular items.
“We do have quite a few elderly attendees that live alone and have lost the ability to cook for themselves. Our events provide them with a fresh healthy meal, some food to take home and, more importantly, social connection with others,” says Angela.
“We also have a group that comes every week from the nearby public housing estate, arriving early and bringing a shopping trolley to fill and take home.”
People can access the pantry from 8am to 10pm every day. One member of the public who relies on the pantry commented that knowing they can access food at odd hours provides a great deal of mental relief, bringing privacy and dignity to their interactions with the pantry.
About the Community Grants Program
Every year the Sisters of Charity Foundation provides grants of up to $15,000 to small not-for-profits across Australia, like Open Table, that use clever ways to fight poverty, loneliness, suffering and oppression. We rely on the generosity of our supporters to fund our Community Grants Program.
Our grants have been used to support a wide range of people, including those facing poverty and disadvantage, people living with disabilities, at-risk youth, refugees and asylum seekers, First Nations people, those experiencing homelessness or domestic violence, elderly people, and those who have been incarcerated or affected by substance abuse and their families.
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Each year we’re able to make a difference to thousands of people across the country with funds generously donated by compassionate Australians. We support initiatives that focus on benefiting the disadvantaged, marginalised and socially isolated people in our community.