Melbourne sees ‘cascading effect of damage’ as sixth lockdown bites

Alan Chung opened his Singaporean Chinese restaurant Tian38 just months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

As he struggles to keep his business alive in Melbourne’s CBD, Mr Chong has also been helping feed the community, first directly from his restaurant, and now through charities Foodbank Victoria, Humble Mission and CrossCulture Church.

Demand for food support surges in sixth Melbourne lockdown

Tian38 first began distributing free meals to anyone in need at the second lockdown in Melbourne last year, with lines running down the street.

“We did it because because we couldn’t run a restaurant, we felt it was right to do the right thing… If I can’t run a restaurant, well, yeah, just go out there and do something right for the community,” Mr. Chung told SBS News.

While he is eager to help anyone who needs it, he said international students were a “key group” who required free food because they were “marginalized and disenfranchised by the lack of support structures afforded to them”.

“Care package and hot meal. We’re trying to make sure that goes somewhere, at least, to help them through,” said Mr. Chong.

Source: Tian 38

Ying Hu, an international student from China who lives in downtown Melbourne, has turned to food relief services to bypass the city’s sixth lockdown, which is now in its third month.

“Every student is completely different but we are all the same during lockdown in terms of isolation in some way,” Ms Ho said.

Ms Hugh teaches at the University of Melbourne and has relied on support services both on and off campus, including a weekly student ‘new fund’ sponsored by SecondBite, and a free ‘pop-up’ food store for international students operated by Foodbank Victoria.

International student Ying Ho has turned to food relief services to bypass the lockdowns in Melbourne.

Source: Supplied / Ying Ho

Ms. Hu said she did not know what she would have done without these services.

“I think of them a lot when I need some fresh fruits and vegetables…just going into town to buy some fresh groceries is really amazing.”

The charity’s Victoria CEO Dave McNamara said the Foodbank pop-up has served students of more than 120 different nationalities since last October.

It began in response to international students who “received no federal assistance at the time, and were unable to work or return home at that time.”

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“They were really at risk. So we set up the supermarket to make sure all of these students are getting culturally appropriate and healthy food to help them during the lockdown,” said Mr. McNamara.

The sixth lockdown in Melbourne has led to higher demand.

“Currently, we see over 600 students per day, and we only work three days a week, four hours,” he said.

While there is a need, the future of the service is uncertain.

International students have flocked to Melbourne's Foodbank pop-up, but its future is uncertain.

Source: The food bank

“We’re committed to running it through the end of the year,” McNamara said. “Then we just have to see how the funding goes.”

He said Melbourne has seen “a ripple effect of damage growing during each lockdown” and many people are worried about what happens next, as the federal government prepares to cut disaster payments once Australia achieves its vaccination targets.

“Demand for our services across the state has increased exponentially,” he said. “The cascading nature of these shutdowns has meant that people have not been able to get back on their feet as quickly as they would like.”

“And in some cases, they never got back on their feet again.”

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