A relative newcomer to UnitingCare Ballarat’s longstanding contribution in making a positive difference in the lives of some of our community’s most vulnerable people, Meals for Change is making up for lost time.
“I didn’t know programs like this existed. This is great and I’m really going to enjoy going out with my friends, feeling like a normal person and not feeling hungry most of the time”
(quote by member)
A café meals program operating across nine Ballarat small businesses, Meals for Change provides opportunities for young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to enjoy subsidised nutritious meals in a community setting. There are approximately 80 Meals for Change memberships active at any given time.
So how does it work?
Young people who are experiencing issues including:
can be referred by their support workers from a wide range of local agencies to Meals for Change. If approved, the young person is invited to one of the participating cafés to receive their membership card which enables the member to purchase twelve meals up to the value of $15.00 for $3.00 each time. Members can take a friend or family member and extend the $3.00 meal deal to them. Through this, members remain connected with the people most important to them. A survey is completed when they receive their first and every subsequent card. The survey seeks to determine the extent to which the membership is making a positive difference in the young person’s life.
Here are some examples of the feedback we have received from members:
"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."
"I’ve always walked past cafés thinking they were for other people and not for me. Having my MfC membership will mean I will be on the inside looking out for the first time and that’s great."
"When I have my daughter next, I’m going to take her out for lunch and really enjoy our time together."
"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!"
"My membership makes me feel civilised and part of something."
"We have both been clean (of drugs) now for ten days now and need to keep getting out and doing things because it’s when we have nothing to do that trouble finds us."
Meals for Change receives no government funding, relying solely on grants and the generosity of the Ballarat community. In just over a year, donation jars in each of the partner cafés have generated almost $5,000. These funds raised are being utilised to cover program costs of over 400 meals. This fantastic support is both greatly appreciated and much needed.
Partner cafés proudly display the Meals for Change logo in their windows with the wider Ballarat community encouraged to support these businesses that are supporting some of our community’s most vulnerable young people.
If you would like to make a donation to the Meals for Change program, you can do through UnitingCare Ballarat’s donations page or call into our reception at 105 Dana Street, Ballarat. A donation of $144 provides 12 meals for a marginalised young person to enjoy in the process of re-engaging with the Ballarat community.