Local businesses step up support for a café making a change

Brendan Rees

Meals with Impact, a social enterprise café born during the pandemic as an employment-based food relief program, has continued to captivate the hearts and minds of locals in Docklands.

The eatery, which is part of the Collins Square precinct, has seen an outpouring of support from generous businesses and workers, including the Collingwood Football Club, which has been amazed by the cafe effecting such positive change in the community.

Located at the corner of Batman Hill Drive and Collins St, Meals with Impact has become a beloved establishment not only because of its delicious food but also for the social good it has provided including creating 20 jobs for women of migrant and refugee backgrounds through its organisation.

Big companies that have either volunteered or used the café for catering or to host functions include KPMG, VicHealth, Monash University, CBUS Property, iSelect, Metro, NBN Co, Linfox Classic Car Collection, ANZ, the Bureau of Meteorology and more.

Among those to recently rally behind Meals with Impact is Opticomm, a national wholesale broadband provider that’s wholly owned by Uniti Group.

“When the team first visited the café recently, they were genuinely touched at the difference the Meals with Impact team is making in providing pathways for employment on top of creating culturally appropriate meals for local communities in need,” Uniti Group’s chief customer and people officer Julia Walsh said.



Her team joined a volunteer day at the café on October 13, which she said was “an amazing way” to help in some small way, “knowing full well that we’ll be back to the cafe time and time again as paying customers”.

To date, Meals with Impact has served 12,500 meals, catered for corporate events, and provided a further 17,000 Magpie Meals through the Collingwood FC’s Community Foundation to help those struggling with food insecurity.

The café’s success and volunteer days have helped change Sara’s life, an Iranian woman who started working with the Meals with Impact team in June.

“Before Meals with Impact, I was applying for jobs and going to interviews and not passing – there was so much frustration,” she said.


It was a big frustrating feeling, and I was feeling ‘I am nothing’. There are so many challenges when you come to a new country, new language, new culture, everything is new’.


“At Meals with Impact, I am confident that I can speak with customers and serve the dishes.”

Co-founded by Nikki Blanch and Harris Ryan, Meals with Impact launched after being funded by the Victorian Government’s Working for Victoria initiative during the pandemic, but due to its significant outcomes, its initial six-month lifespan has continued to be extended.

“While we’re building connections with local migrant communities, the connections with local businesses are just as critical in fuelling our growth,” Mr Ryan said.

“With continued, amazing support from businesses and people in the area, we’re working on more than doubling the number of migrant women we employ over the next year, while shortly rolling out some initiatives like a ready-made meal range, an expanded catering menu and growing our food relief service.”

The café is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 3pm for food and coffee, with the afternoon left open till 5pm for meetings and events. •

For more information: mealswithimpact.com.au


Caption: Opticomm team members join a volunteer day in support of Meals with Impact. Photos: Marcela Lehocka.

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