In our line of work, we’re fortunate to be able to donate dinners that hopefully lighten the load a tiny bit for those who are doing it tough. We’re under no illusions that a cottage pie can take anyone’s mind off illness, stress and overwhelming worries, but at least we can provide a nourishing dinner and get that chore off the to-do list. And it can maybe bring an hour’s warmth and comfort – a good meal can sometimes make the day feel a little brighter.
Every month we give dinners to The Children's Hospital at Westmead to feed the families of children being treated on the Oncology ward. We donate up to 40 meals a week to the Alfresco Community Kitchen, and our CEO, Brad, is taking part in the Vinnies CEO sleepout to raise awareness for those experiencing homelessness.
THE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL AT WESTMEAD
The Children’s Hospital at Sydney’s Westmead looks after 80,000 sick and injured children each year and its Oncology Department is the largest childhood cancer department in New South Wales. Every year in the state around 250 children are diagnosed with cancer, and the Oncology ward takes care of between 120 and 150 of those new patients and their families. Since 1976 more than 3,000 children have received cancer treatment in the department, and more than 2,200 of those patients are long-term survivors. Back in 1976, most children with cancer died. Now, 4 out of 5 children survive cancer permanently. That reassuring improvement has come about through intense and focused research on treatment and care.
It is hard for those of us who aren’t going through it, to imagine the trauma and stress of having a child with cancer. Children can spend long periods in the hospital undergoing treatment and families rebuild their lives around that, with the ward becoming like a second home. While we can’t help ease that stress and worry, the one thing we can do is make dinner. So every month we donate a big box of dinners to the Oncology ward for families to heat up and eat. It’s just one less thing to have to think about, organise and cook, and means everyone gets a little more time with each other, or a well-needed break. We feel very privileged to be able to offer that small service.
THE ALFRESCO COMMUNITY KITCHEN
The mission of Alfresco Community Kitchen is to bring nutritious and delicious dinners to Sydney’s most disadvantaged – whether they’re experiencing homelessness or a difficult time in their life. Inspired by the late Lanz Priestley, and those he worked with, Alfresco Community Kitchen currently sets up food tables in Sydney’s Martin Place at 5pm every Tuesday and every second Saturday. They serve around 200 ‘streeties’ every time; sometimes as many as 350 on a very busy night.
The dinners are a mix of meat and vegetarian and there is a real drive to make them healthy and nourishing. The organisation firmly believes that ‘better nourished people can make better decisions’. A team of volunteers work at home to cook meals from scratch or heat up donated food, which they then transport to Martin Place for serving.
Alfresco Community Kitchen keeps going mainly from community contributions, but also has corporate supporters such as Woolworths, Bakers Delight, Attimo Italian Restaurant in Northbridge, Hornsby Connect, and of course, us. Dinner Ladies donate around 40 meals a week to Alfresco Community Kitchen – often pasta bakes, butter chicken or other meals that can be easily heated in an oven or microwave at home and transported by the volunteer cooks.
This is just one of the lovely thank-you letters we’ve received from Tash, a co-founder of Alfresco Kitchen along with Carly Hall and Melanie Ford: ‘Just had to email to say another big thank you for your ongoing support. The last delivery contained some cakes and the community went crazy. ‘The most delicious cake ever, it doesn’t taste very healthy’ was the best comment when we said it was carrot! We are so appreciative of your continued support, it helps beyond belief!’
VINNIES CEO SLEEPOUT
Our Dinner Ladies CEO, Brad Rom, is participating in the Vinnies CEO Sleepout for 2022. More than 116,000 Australians don’t have a safe place to live or sleep at night, and that includes an increasingly large number of young people and older women. Homelessness is a complex issue that affects people of all ages and backgrounds and around 8,200 Australians every night find themselves ‘sleeping rough’ outdoors, while the majority are surviving in cars, on the couches of friends or family, or in overcrowded, temporary accommodation.
There’s no single cause and no easy solution. A shortage of affordable rental housing, domestic and family violence, poverty, unemployment, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, financial crisis, exiting state care or prison, and economic and social exclusion are all contributing factors.
The St Vincent de Paul Society (Vinnies) was founded in 1833 by 20-year-old student Frederic Ozanam, who wanted to alleviate the terrible suffering of those living in the slums of Paris. Vinnies carries on that vision today, with close to 50,000 members, volunteers and staff across Australia, offering a ‘hand up’ to those in need and advocating on social justice issues, including the urgent need for more government investment in social housing.
On 23 June at the Vinnies CEO sleepout, Australia’s leaders of industry get a small glimpse into what it’s like to sleep rough on one of the coldest nights of the year. They’ll be sponsored to raise funds for food, shelter and support for those who are homeless or at risk. While it won’t be a comfortable night, they’ll have warm clothes, sleeping bags and a hot meal – which is sadly more than many people can rely on – plus the knowledge that they’re going home the next day. The money they raise will make a difference in the lives of those who go without, every night of the year.
Brad Rom has been Dinner Ladies CEO since November 2021. He and his wife, Natalie, have two young girls – two-year-old Abigail and baby Chloe – so he’s super busy with family, but is also a big fan of the outdoors and playing sport. Here’s why Brad’s been inspired to take on the challenge of the Vinnie’s sleepout: ‘
The Vinnies CEO sleepout is something I have known about for a while. It’s a great opportunity to raise awareness for those experiencing homelessness. There have been such tragic natural disasters in recent times with the bushfires and floods, and many people have been doing it tough. This is just something I can do to help out. I am very much looking forward to the challenge.’
And, if anyone would like to donate to the great work being done by the Vinnie’s sleepout team, here’s the link to Brad’s fundraising page below: