Residents trapped inside the locked down Flemington and North Melbourne housing commission blocks say food provided to them by the state government is sometimes expired, mismatched or culturally inappropriate.
As part of the state government’s response to the recent surge in coronavirus cases, people living inside the towers aren’t able to leave for any reason for five to 14 days, including to shop for essentials. Police have been deployed to guard all the exits.
That leaves them completely reliant on food provided by the government and volunteers.
Although the meals are frozen, some of them still have use-by dates which expired months ago.
#freeThe9blocks This is what the community food bank currently needs (picture 1) and the expired “food” parcels The State Government has literally left on the floor for them (picture 2) pic.twitter.com/I5mgMggJuB
— Pauline Vetuna 🌑🌹🌕 (@paulinevetuna) July 6, 2020
Some Muslim residents say they’ve been given meals with pork, despite not being able to eat the meat for religious reasons, while vegetarians have also complained about receiving meals containing meat.
Other food boxes provided on the first day of the lockdown were missing essential ingredients or mismatched altogether, residents say.
In one post, a resident complained of being given “Weet-Bix with no milk” and “tuna with no bread”. Ducking out to buy milk simply isn’t an option.
People in the Melbourne public housing estates say these are the type of food boxes they’ve been provided with – “mismatched” food like “Weet-Bix with no milk” pic.twitter.com/stG13tnDlt
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) July 5, 2020
The meals themselves are being left on the floor outside each apartment’s door, with some residents saying they feel like they’re being treated like dogs.
Residents say nobody knocked or told them when the food was being dropped off, and in some cases, food has started to thaw before residents even knew about it.
After 31 hrs of lockdown, announcement came at N #Melbourne tower “Pick up ur food outside the door” uneatable, frozen things in bags on the floor courtesy of vic gov. #melbournelockdown #MELBOURNESCOVIDPRISONS #COVID19Aus #COVID19 @Channel10AU @Channel7 @Channel9 @SBSNews pic.twitter.com/M3Sciv1BIg
— Madaale Productions (@MrMadaale) July 5, 2020
One resident told The New Daily she had been given just four sausage rolls in the space of 48 hours, while her vegetarian neighbour was given meat pies which “looked like dog food in a plastic bag.”
While Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday said bread and milk had been delivered to every apartment, residents told The Age this is simply not the case.
“When it comes to locking up people, you can’t have bureaucracy like this stopping things like food,” Somali community leader and tower resident Ahmed Dini told the newspaper.
But at a time when the government’s provision of essential food has been slammed, the community has mobilised.
People close to the affected families have formed MutualAID SE to deliver fresh food and other essentials to locked down residents in the towers. AMSSA Youth Connect, another organisation active in the area, has also coordinated efforts to get food into homes.
Sikh Volunteers Australia, which delivered almost 70,000 meals around Australia since the pandemic started, has redirected its efforts towards the locked down towers.
— James Van Leeuwen (@jamesvanleeuwe1) July 6, 2020
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre catering team has also started providing meals, while the Victorian Trades Hall is raising money, although it has not made clear how this will be spent.
Finally, Coles and Woolies say they’ve been donating thousands of boxes and bags full of food and other essentials.
Without the contributions of these volunteers and donations, it’s unclear how long residents would have waited for milk to go with their Weet-Bix, let alone food which is adequate for the wide range of cultures of those who call the towers home.