Volunteer army helping meet demand for Bayside food relief
15 May 2023 Hits:0
Demand for a twice-weekly free community meal program has almost doubled in a year as residents across Melbourne’s bayside suburbs feel the pinch.
An initiative of Bayside Community Care, Matt’s Place, has been providing food relief to anyone facing difficulty since it was established 16 years ago.
General manager Sandra Cavallo said demand had increased a staggering 91 per cent in January and February with expectations winter would only compound the need.
“We are seeing the impact of rising housing costs, rental shortages and increasing financial pressures,” Ms Cavallo said.
“Homelessness is becoming a reality for some individuals who cannot make ends meet, while families are going without the essentials needed to stay happy and healthy.
At Matt’s Place we are seeing this impact more than ever.”
In all, there has been a 39 per cent increase in attendance across both sites at Cheltenham and Chelsea in January and February.
Matt’s Place Cheltenham has seen an 84 per cent increase in attendance in the March quarter compared to the same time last year.
Demand for food hampers also spiked by 91 per cent for the same period, steadying at 60 per cent for the March quarter.
First established by the Kingston Interchurch Council, Matt’s Place is now managed by the benevolent arm of Melbourne’s Bayside Church.
While funding is sourced through local government grants, church donations and fundraising activities, Bayside Community Care is now appealing to the private sector to ensure Matt’s Place continues to have an impact.
Ms Cavallo said the team’s tireless volunteers remained the engine room and heart of the important service.
“Matt’s Place remains an outlet for those who may never have imagined they might need a helping hand,” she said.
Volunteer John Tetteroo said the increase in patronage at the two services in Cheltenham and Chelsea, illustrated the ongoing need.
“It’s more than just food,” he said. “People come for the social interaction and connection. We are helping predominantly single people but occasionally young families who might be struggling financially, could even be homeless or just in need of a boost.”
To find out more about Matt’s Place see Bayside Community Care.