If you don’t know anyone directly affected, it’s easy to forget we’re in the midst of a global pandemic in Australia.
But as Victoria was very recently reminded, the crisis is far from over.
While the dangers are ever-present, the pandemic has also brought out the best in our community. Dozens of hospitality-based charity initiatives have sprung up, dedicated to feeding frontline medical staff, temporary visa holders, and unemployed or underemployed persons in all industries.
And though some restaurateurs now have to turn their attention to reopening their venues as restrictions lift, Broadsheet photographer Chloe Dann set out to capture just a few who’ve been helping out, in ways big and small.
“A couple of weeks before we were told to close, I was already getting really panicky,” says Angie Giannakodakis, co-owner of Carlton eatery Epocha. “I could see that at some point we were going to close and a lot of people were going to be out of work. I was thinking, ‘If people lose their jobs and have no income, how they going to get fed?’”
Giannakodakis started writing letters and “making lots of noise,” she says. “The concept was to engage government and philanthropists to help fund restaurants that had a compassionate arm to feed people in need, such as visa holders and international students.”
The result is Eat Forward, an initiative providing meals to those in need. “We do it once a week, on Thursdays at 3pm. They can come in, let us know they’re unemployed, and we’ll make a meal for them to take away,” Giannakodakis says.
The public can make donations at the restaurant, and City of Melbourne is providing a grant to build an Eat Forward website.
“We need to do something right now, as an industry and a group of people who are responsible not only for our workers, but for our community,” Giannakodakis says. “And who better to feed people than hospitality?”
“When this virus hit, one of our first thoughts was, ‘What can we do to help? What can we do to share compassion? And how can we say thank you for working tirelessly on the frontline during this time?’” says Kim Sheridan, project and development manager at North Melbourne chocolatier Mörk.
“Located in one of Melbourne’s busiest medical areas, we feel an intimate connection with this community. We wanted to show we are here to share and to contribute in any way we can. We decided to offer free hot chocolate for healthcare workers at the beginning of this pandemic, and we continue to do so. It’s our small way of saying thank you.”
Neil Perry’s Hope Delivery by Rockpool Foundation
“We’re delivering to visa holders some 8000 meals over five weeks in Melbourne, and in Sydney some 35,000 to visa holders, refugees, homeless refuges, and women and children’s crisis centres,” says Neil Perry of Hope Delivery, a service he launched after his restaurants were forced to close temporarily in response to the crisis. “I’m getting partnership support through corporates and other foundations, and customers. We also buy local produce, so suppliers have been supported through us, too.
“Once our restaurants reopen we’ll still be supporting the community and making between 500 and 1000 meals a day in each city. The vulnerable are going to need support for some time to come.”
So Shewry and his team launched the Attica Soup Project. Every time you order a bowl of Attica’s soul-warming $25 soup – a shiitake and coconut broth with shredded free-range chicken and crisp garlic – you’ll be helping to feed a hospitality worker in need.
Moroccan Soup Bar
Hana Assafiri is the owner of Moroccan Soup Bar and has been feeding the Fitzroy community on the cheap for more than 20 years. When her restaurant temporarily closed, Assafiri turned her attention to medical workers.
“To thank them, I want them to receive a healthy hot meal from their community at the end of each shift – to send them home each day knowing that we care and appreciate what they are doing for us,” she wrote on a page set up for donations.
Just $12.50 bought a single meal, and before the page closed at the end of May, Assafiri had raised more than $11,000.
Daughter in Law
More than 60 per cent of staff at Jessi Singh’s Indian restaurant Daughter in Law are temporary visa holders, and at the height of the crisis most had either lost their jobs or had shifts significantly reduced. They don’t qualify for Jobseeker or Jobkeeper payments, and like thousands of temporary workers across the country affected by Covid-19, many have no other means of support.
In response, over the Easter long weekend, Singh and business partner Shane Barrett handed over the entire operation – and the profits – to staff on temporary visas.
“We’re very lucky to be in a position to help support them however we can, and to give the community the opportunity to do the same,” Barrett told Broadsheet at the time.
Chotto Motto, Wabi Sabi Salon and Neko Neko
“To help give support to people working on the frontlines during the Covid-19 crisis, we all teamed up to create healthy bento boxes,” says Chotto Motto co-owner Dylan Jones of his restaurant’s partnership with Neko Neko and Wabi Sabi Salon, two other Japanese eateries in Collingwood.
“They were paid for by generous donations from our amazing community here and in Japan. The price to donate a bento box was $14.”
The initiative is no longer running, but the team raised over $3000 and delivered more than 250 bento boxes to St Vincent’s, Royal Melbourne and The Austin hospitals.
Heart Attack & Vine
“We’ve been doing lunch runs to Northland Shopping Centre, providing lunch for the 18 or so staff who are working in the drive-through Covid testing station there,” says Nathen Doyle, co-owner of Carlton diner Heart Attack & Vine. “I have personally been driving the lunch runs at midday to the nurses in the testing facilities. They’ve all been very appreciative of the personal touch – with both the rolls and the owner delivering.”