On-Country Care to provide thousands of meals to COVID-19 affected

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Liam BeattyMidwest Times
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Darren West, Darryl Curley, Alison Sentance, Vince Catania, Donna Ronan and Cherie Sibosado.
Camera IconDarren West, Darryl Curley, Alison Sentance, Vince Catania, Donna Ronan and Cherie Sibosado. Credit: Liam Beatty/Geraldton Guardian

A new social enterprise has been launched by the Aboriginal Biodiversity Conservation Foundation to provide thousands of meals to Mid West and Gascoyne residents struggling with food insecurity due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Called On-Country Care, the enterprise aims to provide 26,000 free hot meals, healthcare and other help to people in need over the next six months.

Chief executive Alison Sentence said, for the first time, the five Aboriginal corporations in the region were pooling resources and working together to design a complete supply line.

“The issue is really about access to food. This region produces so much food it’s unexplainable how people are going hungry,” she said.

“If you look into the level of waste from our growers you’d be shocked.”

“The emergency food relief is just the beginning. We’re looking long-term and plan for this enterprise to grow, providing low cost meals, distribution centres and on-country kitchens in the future.”

Supported by a Lotterywest grant of $212,238, the program will use surplus produce from growers to be made into hundreds of meals weekly in Geraldton, Carnarvon, Meekatharra and Mount Magnet.

Previously, Carnarvon and Meekatharra had been identified by the West Australian Council of Social Services as areas of high food stress, and these issues have only been escalated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Chef Darren Martin will be preparing food out of Rosella House for the enterprise.
Camera IconChef Darren Martin will be preparing food out of Rosella House for the enterprise. Credit: Liam Beatty/Geraldton Guardian

Member for North West Central Vince Catania said the pandemic had affected everyone, leaving some with greater needs and others struggling to access food for the first time.

“When COVID-19 arrived we saw food prices rise, not different to our Aboriginal communities that already had to pay a premium for substandard foods,” he said.

“The Gascoyne and Mid West is the food bowl for the west, yet people are going hungry.”

“Who knows what the future holds. I hope we can continue this collaboration to provide food to the region.”

The collaboration includes contributions from the Bundiyarra Aboriginal Community Aboriginal Corporation, Mungullah Community Aboriginal Corporation, Yulella Aboriginal Corporation, Midwest Employment and Economic Development Aboriginal Corporation (MEEDAC) and Mission Australia.

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