How an Australian student went from cobbling together lasagnes for his doctor sister to making 60,000 meals for frontline health workers fighting the pandemic
- Alex Dekker, 20, launched Alex Makes Meals in March to feed frontline workers
- It started when the Melbourne student learned of his doctor sister’s work diet
- The charity partnered with Toyota in April and has since delivered 60,000 meals
- VIC nurse Soraya Knapp said ‘it was like heaven’ receiving meals on busy shifts
An Australian student who launched a charity after learning his doctor sister was struggling to eat nutritiously has now donated 60,000 meals for frontline health workers.
Alex Dekker, 20, from Melbourne‘s Monash University, kickstarted ‘Alex Makes Meals’ on March 21 to provide free homemade meals for exhausted medical workers.
Mr Dekker got the idea after offering to cook his sister – who works as a doctor – a lasagne two times a week after she told him she only had time to munch on a muesli bar during her long shifts.
The university student posted on Facebook offering to extend the offer of a free meal to healthcare workers, and was met with huge demand.
Alex Dekker, 20, launched ‘Alex Makes Meals’ in March to provide homemade food for exhausted health workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic
‘There were about 400 people wanting help,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Word spread way faster and far wider than anyone thought it would.’
Within a few days he had managed to organise a warehouse and commercial cooking space in Moorabbin, south-east Melbourne, to ramp up production.
His one-man team quickly swelled as more than 100 kind-hearted volunteers offered their time and began whipping up 1500 to 3000 meals a week in Victoria.
‘It is very humbling all of these people are jumping behind the cause,’ Mr Dekker said.
‘It shows me the type of things that can be done when people have a collective dream and vision.’
In April, Alex Makes Meals entered a partnership with Toyota Australia while Bondi-based charity Our Big Kitchen started production in NSW.
Homemade meals, such as curries, pastas and soups, are made in the morning then delivered to hospitals and clinics.
More than 100 volunteers have chipped in to provide thousands of free meals to medical workers across Melbourne and Sydney
Six months later, they have collectively delivered more than 60,000 meals to hungry frontline workers.
Toyota Australia national catering operations manager Joanne Bartholomeusz said the company’s catering division is producing 300 meals a day, delivering a total of more than 20,000 meals in the past four months.
‘Toyota Australia saw an opportunity to help this great service and use its commercial kitchen and qualified catering staff that normally service employees at its headquarters in Port Melbourne,’ she said.
‘With 90 per cent of employees working from home, it was very under-utilised, so we saw a chance to put it and us to work to really make a valuable contribution to support the frontline workers.’
Soraya Knapp, a nurse based in a Victorian clinic, was pulled from her role as a palliative care worker and put on the frontline as the pandemic began in March.
‘Our work schedule is hectic. We see a lot of people, we deal with a lot of anxiety. We don’t snack and are on our feet all day,’ she said.
The charity has been a godsend for overworked medical staff since launching in March. Pictured are meals being delivered to a hospital
‘Generally by lunch we are starving, and we have to we have to take all of our PPE gear off properly to avoid getting infected, which only leaves us only with time on our break to eat.
‘When Alex Makes Meal made contact and brought meals it was like heaven. We could take out a meal, whack it in the microwave and have a really good meal at lunchtime.
‘Beforehand we were just eating quick food, two-minute noodles, tuna, whatever was available.’
The donation-run service has recently expanded to include other groups in need, such as homeless shelters and women’s shelters.
Homemade meals, such as pasta, soup and curries, are made in the kitchens each morning then delivered to sites
While the organisation was only meant to run for two weeks, Mr Dekker said it will continue permanently after he was shocked by the demand for the service.
‘We realised there is a huge problem with hunger in Australia that wasn’t being addressed,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘The people who are receiving our meals are feeling the brunt of COVID-19 and many were feeling it before.
‘Seeing these people fight each day to survive and make ends meet, being able to help them and being able to be part of their fight is really humbling and heartbreaking.
‘Any cent that the public donates is a meal for a health care worker, a homeless person, international students, or a woman in a women’s shelter.’
‘It is really rewarding to see the little difference that delivering a meal makes.’