Chris Lombardo – executive officer at The Bridge, a not-for-profit that offers vocational training, childcare and other community services in Preston and Thornbury – has a son with some learning difficulties. When she was researching employment opportunities for him she stumbled across Bitty and Beau’s – a cafe in the States that provides practical hospitality training for a disadvantaged community. It sparked an idea.
Moon Rabbit opened in March 2018 at the front of The Bridge’s headquarters in Preston. It sells jaffles, house-made slices and Padre coffee. It’s also environmentally responsible and it supports the local community.
The cafe trains young people with learning and other disabilities. A 26-week pilot program sees six students rotate through one- to two-hour shifts that complement the classroom training they get at The Bridge.
The menu is simple. It’s vegetarian-, vegan- and halal-friendly, and only two of the seven jaffles contain meat. The Lambo has spiced Moroccan lamb, sweet-potato hummus, lemon zest and feta. And there’s a coffee-soaked French-toast jaffle with caramelised banana, berry coulis and Nutella.
Cakes and slices are baked daily using recipes from Lombardo’s grandma. Expect caramel, lemon and hedgehog slices; gluten-free Florentines; and other Country Women’s Association cookbook classics.
All takeaway food is served in paper bags, cardboard boxes or glass jars. Reusable Moon Rabbit cups are available to buy, and large takeaway coffee orders are transported in stiff-bottom reusable cloth bags, like a smaller version of those you’d find at a supermarket. Customers are also encouraged to bring their own mugs, or donate an old one.
Out the front there are 35 seats and different nooks. And planter boxes made from recycled pallets and a synthetic turf lounge with cushions.
For more cafes like Moon Rabbit, see our guide to Social Enterprises in Melbourne.