FareShare’s Schools in the Kitchen is an excursion with a difference. Secondary students from across Victoria spend half a day in the FareShare kitchen learning about food insecurity and sustainability while working together to create nutritious meals for vulnerable people using rescued surplus food. FareShare has offered Schools in the Kitchen since 2014 and consistently receives positive feedback from teachers and students.
The organisation has reported that requests for FareShare meals have been increasing, due to higher cost of living expenses and the tail-end of the pandemic. In September 2022 they reported their longest ever waiting list for meals. FareShare has to raise all the funds they need to power ovens, fridges and freezers; to keep food rescue vans on the road; and to pay chefs and staff. They ask for a contribution from schools to help cover costs associated with running their shift, but not all schools can afford this.
With an FFV Community Grant of $46,500, FareShare delivered 60 shifts to schools that otherwise could not have participated. In total, it benefitted 900 students and 120 teachers from across Victoria. In low socio-economic areas, promoting volunteerism and charitable work is important – as one teacher noted “We do come from a disadvantaged area but going to FareShare makes them realise that there are people less fortunate than them and they feel good about being able to give something back to the community.”
The program also encourages students to think about their pathways after they leave school, including continuing with volunteering roles.
“The hands-on experience at FareShare is very positive and invaluable for the students. The ability to be able to actually physically do something is more engaging than being spoken to, no matter how interactive a talk is.” - Teacher
FareShare Executive Director Marcus Godinho says at each FareShare shift students cook 1,500 meals, which are provided free to charities, agencies and schools serving disadvantaged communities.
“The experience caters to students of all abilities and backgrounds, providing a common sense of achievement. It also helps to destigmatise the issue of food insecurity, which some students may be facing in their family.”
To complement the hands-on experience, students have access to newly developed online material on food insecurity and sustainability. The program inspires students to take action to benefit the community, long after their participation in the program.
One student group that participated even ran a casual clothes day fundraiser for FareShare and other not-for-profits.
Students spoke highly of their experience, and motivated through teamwork. “We were able to make so much food in a short amount of time that will help many people!” Others remarked that while they were having fun, they were helping people in need and were struck by the ‘simplicity’ of what it took to help others.
For people in need, a Fare Share meal is much more than just a plate of nutritious food. One charity partner noted that many people experiencing food insecurity really appreciate the judgement free, friendly delivery and having one less thing to worry about.
“Worrying about money and where your next meal is coming from can be mentally debilitating. Having a hot meal that is easy to prepare can assist with both a person’s mental and physical wellbeing through feeding the mind and body. Problems always become bigger on an empty stomach. A comforting meal can help people to feel supported and better able to process issues, feel like they have one less problem to worry about, or even work better due to increased concentration with a full belly.”