UPDATE: Despite restrictions on cafes, the Mill Cafe is still serving takeaway meals and coffee.
A Queanbeyan café is serving more than coffee and lunch while the coronavirus pandemic intensifies. April and Mo Hbaika at the Mill Café and their family are helping some of the town's most vulnerable people get the food and supplies they need.
"We thought we had to do something," April said. "We have a lot of older customers, families, mums. They were all saying how awful it was they couldn't source things to cook for their families. We thought this is ridiculous; we're in a position where we can help."
Through their bulk suppliers, the family was able to order 10 kg boxes of pasta, flour, and the "precious, precious!" toilet paper. On Facebook, they invited seniors and people with disabilities to collect the items.
"We're mimicking Coles and Woolies, I guess," April said, referring to the supermarkets' early morning hour dedicated for the elderly and disabled. Because some senior citizens cannot make it to the supermarkets so early, this gives them another option.
The Mill Café is also selling cheap but nutritious takeaway meals: a different choice each night, including carbonara and lentil and chickpea curry so far. "It's nothing fancy," April said, "but at least they don't have to stress about going to the supermarket in the afternoon and just being frustrated." The $5 price covers the family's costs.
The idea started, April explained, because one of her good customers couldn't do her usual shop before work; by the time she finished at 6pm, there was nothing left for her family to eat. The supermarket shelves are nearly empty, April said; when she went the other day, all she found were two frozen lasagnas.
"There was nothing else," April said. "This is not good. It's getting to the stage where people were trying to buy all the two-minute noodles and soup. There's really nothing left."
April said she was shocked by the amount of positive feedback their Facebook post received. It was shared more than 100 times, and received nearly 60 glowing comments. "This melts my heart," said one. "People will remember your support long after Corona is relegated to history," read another; "restoring faith in humanity, one person at a time."
The takeaway meals will still be sold under the coronavirus restrictions on cafes, the Mill announced on Monday morning.
And locals came in droves to give their assistance. Some donated food: small packets of cereal, long-life milk, tinned fish. One man came down with a three-pack of soap. "Even though it doesn't seem like much, it really does help those people who don't have anything," April said. Others donated money so the family could buy more supplies.
Those donations made up eight bags of groceries that Meals on Wheels will take out to the most vulnerable. Other Facebook users have offered to deliver some of the half kilo bags of food April and her family packaged themselves. (Meals on Wheels can only deliver prepackaged, unopened food.)
April thanked the public for their generosity, and encouraged people to continue donations`- even if just cans of soup or packets of pasta.
"This is ongoing, and we will accept donations of anything that people can spare," she said. "We're in a capacity to order some things, but we don't even know if we will be limited in the near future. We don't have an endless supply, and neither do our suppliers.
"We're also open to any suggestions the community has about what we can do," April said.
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