As COVID-19 cases surge in inner Sydney, local volunteers are stepping in to help. Most of the food is being donated via social enterprise PlateitForward, which has already dished up more than 85,000 meals.
Jenny Sanders is a Wiradjuri Elder currently living alone in Glebe. The suburb is among several in Sydney where COVID-19 cases have increased in recent days.
“I’m frightened to go anywhere. I’m scared to go up the street because I know COVID is everywhere,” Ms Sanders says.
She has also been struggling emotionally during lockdown.
“I haven’t seen my granddaughter up in Queensland for over a year and it is killing me,” she says.
“We have been in lockdown for 12 weeks. It is a very long time and you don’t go anywhere or see anyone.”
Ms Sanders is fully vaccinated but has diabetes and high blood pressure and is fearful of contracting COVID-19. Indigenous Australians are at higher risk of getting very sick and developing serious illness from the virus.
After feeling like she was at crisis point recently, she reached out to a local support group for help.
A Facebook group called First Nations Covid-19 Inner West/ Eastern Suburbs Response sees volunteers delivering pre-cooked meals and groceries to dozens of vulnerable residents around Sydney’s Inner West.
The group’s co-founder, Coral Lever, is currently coordinating a team of about 80 volunteers.
“These are just people in the community who are concerned about First Nations families in isolation and want to ensure they get the food that they need,” she says.
Ms Lever says the group’s services are in high demand, particularly this week after several large Aboriginal organisations were forced to pause their support measures due to staff testing positive for COVID-19.
“Aboriginal people in isolation are telling us, ‘we need immediate food relief and we need it now,’ and that is actually quite scary.
“A lot of families have lost their jobs, have lost their cash-in-hand income, and are really struggling to get through this lockdown.”
Ms Sanders, who is is in her 60s, says she is beyond grateful for the food delivery she received from the group.
“I can’t express how important it is to me, and how it warms your heart to know that there are young ones out there trying to help.”
Plate it forward
None of the deliveries would possible without the meals themselves, which are being donated by restaurant owner Shaun Christie-David through PlateitForward.
The social enterprise has dished up more than 85,000 meals so far including spaghetti and meatballs, Sri Lankan curries and honey soy chicken, which are prepared in a large commercial kitchen in Darling Harbour.
“This lockdown has been the most brutal one that we’ve experienced. Food insecurity has risen to a rate that we had never seen,” Mr Christie-David says.
“Demand is rising from disadvantaged groups, as well as people from ethnic communities who have never thought of asking for donated meals before, but now their businesses are going under and they need support.
“Our chefs cook culturally appropriate meals for Middle Eastern and Asian communities as well as local Indigenous groups.”
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