Meals for Change
Ballarat’s Café Meals Program
Thanks to the generosity of the Medibank Community Fund, Gandel Philanthropy and the Matana Foundation, UnitingCare Ballarat is proud in 2015 to auspice Ballarat’s café meals program, Meals for Change. An initiative of the Grampians Homelessness Network, Meals for Change provides opportunities for young people aged between 15 and 25 years of age who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, to enjoy regular nutritious meals in any of the seven local cafés that have agreed to come on board as inaugural partners to the program.
Young people identified as experiencing issues of; poor access to food, housing, social isolation and financial stress, are referred by their support workers from a wide number of local agencies to Meals for Change. If approved, the young person is issued with a membership card which looks much like a coffee loyalty card and with capacity for the cardholder to purchase twelve meals up to the value of $15.00, for $3.00 each time.
When the membership card has been fully expended, the young person meets with their support worker and talks through what differences participation in Meals for Change is making to their health, self-esteem and community connection. A new card is issued and importantly, the timely conversation continues to grow with a focus on ‘what else can we be doing to support you?’
Partner cafés proudly display the Meals for Change logo in their windows and the wider community is invited to contribute to the program through donating their spare change to Meals for Change jars, which are located near registers.
Our Partner Cafes
Ballarista, 2a Lydiard Street Ballarat
Beechworth Bakery, 6 Grenville St Ballarat
Curry Star, Dana Street Ballarat
Brunches, 735 Sturt Street Ballarat
Curbside Café, corner Albert & Hertford Streets Sebastopol
Nibble on Sturt, 215 Sturt Street Ballarat
Red Bird Café, 1215c Howitt Street Wendouree
Round the Way Bagels, 30 Main Road Ballarat
Saigon Vietnam Noodle House, Armstrong Street Nth
Savoy Coffee Lounge, Bridge Mall Ballarat
Whilst UnitingCare is grateful for the funding which will enable Meals for Change to support over 100 of our community’s most vulnerable young people, an estimated $55,000 will be required each subsequent year to ensure its life-changing potential remains in place.
If you would like to suuport the Meals for Change program, please visit our Donate Today page.
Meals for Change – changing local lives one meal at a time
This month UnitingCare Ballarat’s Meals for Change café meals program celebrates its first birthday and whilst the program has the key focus of improving the nutrition and meal frequency of its members, there is much more to this fantastic little program than meets the eye.
Meals for Change brings about positive small - steps change in the lives of young people who experience or at risk of homelessness through the simple but powerful act of eating out and feeling part of our community. Jen Pollard, the program’s project officer says “We know that it nourishes the bodies of members but just as if not more importantly, it builds self-confidence, a sense of belonging and connection with the wider community, all of which are likely not to have existed for these young people before. That’s what members talk about most when they speak of the program.”
“Before I started Meals for Change, my confidence for being around people was really low. Now my confidence has really started to improve and I feel much better about both myself and others.”
"I always used to feel judged by people and so didn’t feel welcome in lots of places. Now I’ve started using my membership, I don’t feel that way anywhere near as much so that’s great."
Members pay $3.00 towards the cost of a meal up to the value of $15.00 in any of the Meals for Change cafés. At the end of each month, the program reimburses cafés the balance between the contributions of members and the cost of the meals. Members value the feelings of self-respect and dignity that comes with contributing to the cost of their meals.
“I know I need to work on my social skills so eating in cafés rather than getting handouts will really help me do this.”
“When I went up to order my meal the first time I used my card, the person who served me smiled at me and made me feel just like any normal customer. That was great!”
“All my money goes on rent and getting to my university course so eating is often a low priority. My membership will allow me to eat well and more regularly and focus on my course more.”
By the end of December, almost 600 meals will have been enjoyed in the now ten local cafés who are proud Meals for Change partners. The program currently has approximately 75 active memberships with participants ranging in age from 15 to 25 years and with members drawn from every corner of the Ballarat community.
Meals for Change has also clearly struck a chord with the wider Ballarat community says Ms Pollard. “Each of the cafés has a distinctive orange jar near their registers, inviting patrons to donate their change to the program. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity and support shown by people” Ms Pollard states “We expect by the end of the year for donations to exceed $4.5k, that’s over 375 meals that the community has funded and that is an amazing show of support and it’s great to know the community likes what UnitingCare Ballarat is doing.
Already planning is underway to build on the great investment in lives that Meals for Change has enjoyed in 2016. “We want to actively include the wider community more in the program and we are also very keen to explore how Meals for Change can contribute to improved training and employment opportunities for its members. Meals for Change is a great little program that has captured the imagination of its members, local businesses and the wider community but there is a lot of work ahead to ensure it continues to break down the vicious cycle of disadvantage that too many young people currently experience.”