The new cafe with a heartfelt mission to empower women

Kaylah Joelle Baker

Meals With Impact has just wrapped up its fourth week as a social enterprise café in Docklands and is looking forward to continuing to provide for the community while simultaneously helping to empower women in work.  

As a social enterprise, Meals With Impact exists for the purpose of creating systemic change against discriminatory recruitment practices that maintain barriers for women from refugee and migrant backgrounds. 

All purchase proceeds are then directed into growing Meals With Impact and its mission that has stood firm since its inception in 2021.

Co-founded by Nikki Blanch and Harris Ryan, the purpose-led business started out as an employment-based food relief program aimed at meeting the needs of women in public housing estates who were unable to find work. 

The project, which began during the pandemic, was funded by the Victorian Government’s Working for Victoria initiative.

Due to the program’s significant outcomes, it was extended from six months to 12 months, and employed 14 women from culturally diverse backgrounds who produced around 26,000 meals for local food relief programs.  

“After the 12 months, we found it to be such a positive experience for the women and saw such growth in them that we were inspired to keep it going as a social enterprise,” Ms Blanch told Docklands News. 

“The cafe provides a safe and familiar starting point for the women who may have never worked before due to raising large families or experiencing significant barriers to getting into work in Australia,” she said. 



“Our main mission is to empower women through hands-on paid work and to develop their skills and self-confidence. We have researched and developed a number of relevant training models using a number of replicable industries, yet opening a cafe was the best scenario to establish a safe and nurturing environment that is relatable and relevant to the employees’ job goals.”

Women who come to work at the industry-standard cafe are trained by qualified chefs with industry experience, and are encouraged to create traditional cuisines that represent their heritage and culture. 

During their work experience, employees are taken through worker’s rights seminars, industry-relevant induction and OH&S training, where they are mentored and supported in learning their roles and responsibilities as an employee. 

In addition to noticing Meals With Impact’s mission being lived out when walking into the cafe, behind the scenes it is also helping to support its exclusive coffee partner Ageyo Coffee, which works directly with the cafe.

From the price of every fair trade and ethical cup of coffee purchased at the cafe, one dollar is sent directly to supporting the education of the children of women in Ageyo, a village within the Jimma region of Ethiopia, who work on the coffee farm. 

These small, yet impactful, choices are to the credit of the Meals With Impact’s hard working and committed team, each with critical roles in helping create change. 

As well as its co-founders, chief operating officer Rachael Hua, pathways coordinator Talaska Despotellis, executive chef Andrew Hunt, and peer mentor Khalida Rahim are there every step of the way to help new employees feel welcome, safe and comfortable.

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

The cafe is also looking at expanding its offerings of hot meals and salad mixes, its food relief service, and its full catering menu, with the addition of a culturally diverse ready-made meals range to take home and enjoy.  

Meals With Impact is part of the Collins Square precinct and can be found at the corner of Batmans Hill Drive and Collins St. 

To keep up to date with all that is happening, and to enquire about events or the catering menu, head online to Meals With Impact’s website. •

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