Mars Food Australia, Sodexo and Foodbank are combining resources for a week-long special event to cook meals for people in need of food relief on the New South Wales Central Coast.
The wider staff 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 COVID-19 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 who are part of Foodbank’s network will collect the meals and distribute them to individuals and families on the Central Coast.
Mars Food Australia’s general manager, Bill Heague, said there was huge enthusiasm for the project amongst the team at their Central Coast facility.
“With everyone finally returning to the site here at Wyong, we wanted to celebrate with a project that got us working together, side-by-side with colleagues, doing something worthwhile for our community,” Heague said.
“We firmly believe that dinner time matters, and we know finding opportunities to cook and share meals with family and friends is good for both physical and mental wellbeing. It’s the foundation of our business.
“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,” he said.
Sodexo, an integrated facilities management services company, with a base on the Central Coast, has teamed up with Mars Food Australia to provide support services and the key food ingredients required to make up the 2,500 meals.
Energy and Resources and Group Strategic Accounts, Australia, Executive Director Mr Keith Weston, said Sodexo is 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," he said.
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.
Foodbank Australia CEO, Brianna Casey, said Foodbank was 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 are so grateful to our wonderful partners - Sodexo and Mars Food Australia - who work tirelessly to support us and have done so for many years.
“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,” Casey said.
Heague said Mars is striving to helping 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,” Heague said.