“We can’t eat gluten or dairy and we just absolutely love these meals, especially the convenience of being able to simply heat the meals and dish them up,” Jes says. “It’s like gourmet restaurant food and packed full of big chunky vegies.”
RACV City Club executive chef Jason Camillo is overseeing the preparation of the packaged meals, which RACV employees are delivering in decommissioned and converted RACV Emergency Roadside Assist vans.
The RAVC emergency goods assist program was launched in March and supports 27 community organisations in Melbourne, Geelong, Mornington Peninsula and Gippsland.
Jes says it can be difficult to get gluten-free food from charities and it’s expensive to buy. “If you had celiac disease 20 years ago you ate rice cakes and that was about it,” Jes says. “Now there is more available, but it’s so expensive and it doesn’t go far.”
Jes gets the family’s meals through Hope City Mission and appreciates the RACV’s generosity during the COVID-19 crisis. “I’m disabled and I suffer chronic pain, so making meals is difficult for me,” Jes says. “When I do make a meal, it generally has to last two or three days, and it takes me all day to make it.”
Hope City Mission CEO Vanessa Bonica says her organisation, which is based in Croydon, is assisting 149 families in three different council areas, as well as 40-50 families through three schools with at-risk teenagers.
She says Hope City Mission aims to deliver high-quality food to its clients and the RACV’s meals have exceeded expectations. “When someone is in hardship and they are dealing with a whole lot of emotions, while giving them rescue food serves the purpose, it is also difficult to turn up to a place and get food that is probably of not such great quality,” she says. “To get the RACV meals, with their quality, freshness and presentation, has been amazing and such a blessing to people who have hit hard times.”
Vanessa says high-quality food is a way of showing people they are valued members of society. “When people are financially struggling or they have lost their jobs, or they are a victim of family violence, their self-esteem is totally destroyed,” Vanessa says. “Part of building them back up and empowering them and encouraging them is showing them that they are worthy of receiving quality food.”
She says clients have appreciated how RACV’s chefs have accommodated special dietary requirements. “We’ve had clients say, ‘I feel included, I feel like someone has actually considered me.’ I know the meals have been so well received. I watch people leave us with such gratitude.”