Mars Food Australia, Sodexo and Foodbank have pooled their resources to host a week-long special event to aid people in need of food relief on the NSW Central Coast.
The team at Mars Food Australia is returning to the company’s production facility at Wyong – the first time many have been on-site since COVID-19 restrictions took hold – and their commercial R&D kitchen has been converted into a master chef’s culinary workshop to produce meals for local people in need.
During the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, the demand for food relief increased by 47 per cent, according to Foodbank. In 2021, more than one in six Australian adults hadn’t had enough to eat and of those, almost 40 per cent had not been in this situation prior to the pandemic.
In response to this need, more than 100 staff across all areas of the Mars Food business, along with staff from Sodexo, have volunteered their time to produce up to 2,500 meals, working two shifts a day throughout the week (9-13 May). Local charities part of Foodbank’s network will collect the meals and distribute them to individuals and families on the Central Coast.
Mars Food Australia general manager, Bill Heague, said there was huge enthusiasm for the project amongst the team at their Central Coast facility.
“As a food company that’s committed to making healthy and good tasting food products that bring people together, what better way to do celebrate our return than by producing meals for those experiencing food insecurity in our local community,” Heague said.
Sodexo, an integrated facilities management services company with a base on the Central Coast, teamed up with Mars Food Australia to provide support services and the key food ingredients required to make up the 2,500 meals.
Keith Weston, executive director, Energy and Resources and Group Strategic Accounts, Australia, said Sodexo was keen to collaborate on this week-long event to support the local community.
“We are pleased to partner with our client, Mars Food Australia, and our national charity partner, Foodbank Australia, to address the growing demand for food relief in our communities,” Weston said.
“When we work with stakeholders who share our values, great things can happen. This collaboration also supports Sodexo’s global Stop Hunger program and mission to improve quality of life for people everywhere we operate.”
The teams will be cooking fresh meals with ingredients from Sodexo and sauces and meal bases from Mars Food Australia to create a range of meal options: Dolmio spaghetti bolognaise, Masterfoods butter chicken, Masterfoods beef stroganoff and a vegetable curry.
Brianna Casey, Foodbank Australia CEO, said Foodbank is thrilled to be a partner in this project and help get these meals directly to those who have fallen on tough times in the local area.
“Foodbank provides relief to more than one million Australians every month, and with the cost of living increasing, this figure is not likely to go down any time soon,” Casey said.
“We know that a nutritious meal is more than just food. It not only relieves the burden of stress, it enables families to unite and bond at the dinner table. That’s what Mars Food and Sodexo’s cook up will enable for many families and individuals doing it tough right now.”
The four charity partners who will be collecting and distributing meals throughout the week are:
- The Entrance Public School, which runs a pantry for families and is well known in the community;
- FIAM Incorporated Care Arm, which runs an outreach service for people in need who can’t travel and shares food with a local homeless support service;
- Toukley Neighbourhood Centre, which runs a pantry and delivery service for people in need; and
- Coast Shelter, which provides a range of services and personal supports for people experiencing homelessness or domestic and family violence.
Heague said Mars strives to help alleviate the growing hunger problem on a world-wide scale.
“Globally, Mars Incorporated is committed to delivering 25 million meals to people in need of a healthy meal by 2025. This project will contribute towards that goal and go some way to helping families struggling with food insecurity and going through difficult times,” he said.