Hartley’s Meals patrons can’t get enough of FareShare

Nestled in the heart of Chapel Street, Hartley’s Meals Community Dining Room is a homely, welcoming space where anybody can come and sit down, have breakfast or lunch, read a book or mingle.

Run by Uniting, Hartley’s Meals has been designed to help break down the stigma of food relief. From its beautiful courtyard to the warm hubbub and wonderful aromas that greet you as you enter, it looks and feels like a damn fine café.

Hartley’s Meals Team Leader Sara Loots meets FareShare’s community team members and shows us around. “Our dining room has communal tables and books as we want to make it a safe space for everyone – a place people can come to feel comfortable and connect,” she explains.

Anyone is welcome but most of the patrons are rough sleepers, rooming house residents, or those unable to cook for themselves or unable to afford food due to issues like loss of employment, low income, increasing cost of living, or struggles with mental health.

On this day, a dozen or so people are there. A few are engaging with the friendly volunteers and staff. A handful are heads down, tucking into their food. More trickle in and line up for a hot feed. It’s all very human. 

Hartley’s Meals Team Leader Sara Loots holds up our meals
Hartley’s Meals Team Leader Sara Loots holds up our meals

How FareShare helps Uniting

FareShare meals are primarily distributed via Uniting’s Emergency Relief food pantry throughout the week and in the dining room during Friday lunches so that those doing it tough have nourishing meals all week. “FareShare fills that gap on the weekend – making sure people do not go hungry when we are closed,” Sara says.

Our meals are also sent directly to people in temporary accommodation and are often available on the Hartley’s Meals counter during their lunch service, so people can pick up a free meal to enjoy later in the day.

The variety, quality and convenience of our meals make them an ever-popular choice. According to Uniting, many clients return and specifically ask for FareShare meals. One client said they were tastier than the supermarket brands they had tried.

As someone studying nutrition and with a genuine interest in food relief, Sara is impressed by the nutritional value in Fareshare’s meals, and by their versatility. She likes that most of our meals can be cooked in a saucepan or on a burner, which is beneficial as a fair few of their clients do not always have access to an oven or microwave.

According to Sara, FareShare meals are ideal for people in boarding houses who may lack cooking facilities, and for people who just don’t have the motivation, know-how, or means to cook a meal.

Basically, “FareShare meals hit the spot for our clientele,” Sara says.

Free, nutritious FareShare meals on display on the Hartley’s Meals counter

The rewards of volunteering

Glennie is one of the friendly Hartley’s Meals volunteers on hand to engage with people coming in.

“Most people just want a smile and a five-minute chat,” she says. “It feels pretty good to be that person that makes someone else’s day. Volunteering has really surprised me in that way.

“Everyone who comes in here is really grateful for the support; a hot meal makes all the difference.”

Volunteer Glennie peeling vegetables while chatting about how great Uniting is

We couldn’t put it better ourselves: ‘a hot meal makes all the difference’. And here at FareShare, we cook thousands of them every day for those doing it tough. Help us continue to support Uniting and the hundreds of other frontline charities we give food to today. 

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