‘A delicious group hug’: How foodies and farmers fed thousands during pandemic

‘A delicious group hug’: How foodies and farmers fed thousands during pandemic

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The coronavirus pandemic and Melbourne’s six lockdowns hit hard, but many people in the community also stepped up to help others and improve the city.

When hospitality businesses started closing their doors in March last year, Rebecca Scott, founder of social enterprise Streat, started speed-dialling farms and cafes about growing and cooking food for those who needed it most.

Rebecca Scott (left) of Moving Feast and lord mayor Sally Capp outside the Melbourne Town Hall. Credit:Joe Armao

“It made no sense that social enterprises would close … you need those organisations more in a crisis,” Ms Scott said. “We mobilised at warp speed all of these chefs and cooks and gardeners to work on this integrated system.”

She co-ordinated a group of 80 organisations to form Moving Feast,

a coalition of social enterprises and charities focused on growing and cooking vegetarian and halal meals and preparing produce boxes for vegetarian and migrant communities.

Through Melbourne’s lockdowns, Moving Feast grew more than 60,000 food plants, packed more than 30,000 produce boxes and cooked more than 150,000 meals.

“We wanted to give a delicious group-hug to those doing it tough through the pandemic,” Ms Scott said. “Then we got to work dreaming about what to do next”.

The crisis created an opportunity for Moving Feast, and the collaboration is expected to continue.

The group has started creating training and employment pathways for young people who want a career in urban farming. Works are also afoot to reduce waste produced by the network and make it a zero-waste operation.

Ms Scott wants Melbourne to be known not just as a city for preparing and eating great food but also growing it.

“We are introducing structural change, not just food relief, which is a Band Aid,” she said. “The next decade I think will be extraordinary. There are so many opportunities to build back better.”

Moving Feast is one of 29 finalists in the City of Melbourne’s annual Melbourne Awards.

Other finalists including RoboGals, an organisation which encourages girls from primary and secondary schools to pursue STEM subjects, and startup Great Wrap, which produces Australian-made compostable cling wrap.

Lord mayor Sally Capp said the awards would recognise people and organisations making a difference in Melbourne.

She said there were opportunities to rethink and reset the way Melbourne operated, quoting “the great oracle” Homer Simpson who said a crisis was a “crisitunity”.

“One of the standouts for me in terms of silver linings of COVID is definitely that sense of people power, and also unity and solidarity where individuals have understood that we’ve all got a role to play in the greater good,” she said.

“There are a number of silver linings that we are really keen to make sure have an enduring legacy and benefit for the city.”

The winner of the Melbourne Awards will be announced on 13 November.

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