Bendigo Foodshare, Be.Bendigo and the City of Greater Bendigo have joined forces to launch a new crowdfunding initiative to support local hospitality businesses while providing cooked meals to people in need.

Cafes for COVID is an innovative new program that will pay local businesses, using money raised by the community, to cook meals that will go out to people struggling to afford food via Bendigo Foodshare’s network of food relief agencies.

Bendigo Foodshare Manager, Bridget Bentley said food insecurity was a significant issue in the Bendigo region, with 26,500 people living in poverty before the outbreak of coronavirus, and unemployment levels predicted to double to 10 per cent by June.

“COVID-19 is hitting regional Victoria hard, leaving a growing number of Central Victorians, including many hospitality workers, struggling to put food on the table,” Ms Bentley said.

“For these people, feeding themselves and their household is a daily challenge; one that competes with other costs, such as housing, education and bills.”

“With a forecast peak in demand still a couple of months away, we’re ramping up our stores to cope with an influx of new food recipients, some of whom have never needed food relief or financial help before.”

Cafes for COVID works on the simple premise of locals supporting locals, and it does this in several ways.

  • Local people donate what they can to Cafes for COVID via the Go Fund Me campaign.
  • Bendigo Foodshare uses the donations to buy food and cooking supplies from local growers, manufacturers, and suppliers.
  • Donations also pay local cafes, restaurants, caterers, and pubs to cover the cost of cooking the supplies into a fresh batch of heat-and-eat meals.
  • The meals go to people experiencing financial hardship via Bendigo Foodshare’s network of food relief partners.

Be.Bendigo Chief Executive Officer, Dennis Bice said Central Victoria’s once vibrant cafes, restaurants and pubs were hurting because of the necessary COVID-19 containment measures.

“Many of our favourite local eateries, and the businesses that supply them, have little or no turnover right now and therefore no income. They’ve had to access government support or stand down staff to stay afloat,” Mr Bice said.

“Cafes for COVID aims to offset the downturn by providing a new revenue source for struggling businesses; one where they can keep the doors open and staff on the payroll while performing a vital service for those doing it tough in our community.”

City of Greater Bendigo Mayor Cr Margaret O’Rourke applauded the crowdfunding campaign and said It proved once again that Greater Bendigo was an industrious and caring community.

“Greater Bendigo residents and businesses have a long history of working together to support each other in the face of adversity and Cafes for COVID is no different,” Ms O’Rourke said.

“I encourage you to support the campaign over the coming months, if you can afford to do so, which serves as a practical way to help local business and put food on the table in hundreds of homes.

“Together with Bendigo Foodshare’s incredible volunteers, our amazing local businesses and your community spirit, people living in the central Victorian region won’t have to go hungry this winter.”

To donate to Cafes For COVID, visit the Go Fund Me campaign. To express your business’ interest in cooking meals for people in need, please contact Bendigo Foodshare.