Have you ever stopped to wonder how easily we consume three meals a day, with not a worry about whether there’s enough in the fridge or pantry?
For some people in the community though, the fear of a shortage of food is always on their mind.
Homelessness is a growing community concern in Victoria, with numbers estimated at approximately 22,000 today. For people experiencing this condition, it is a daily battle to survive, and to find appropriate and adequate shelter, food, water and other essential items is not always easy.
Craigieburn couple Vishal Vohra and Meetu Arora, together with their business partner Ranvir Singh, are doing their bit to help homeless people eat better and healthier on a daily basis. Since December 2016, they have been welcoming homeless people to eat an adequate meal at their outlet Craigieburn Fish and Chips.
The inspiration came to Vishal one day at work as he observed a homeless person outside, obviously in need. “I approached the gentleman and asked if he would like some hot food. He was taken aback at first but then said yes,” Vishal explained. “I knew that he was hungry. He thanked me for offering.”
It was as if something changed for Vishal at that precise moment.
“I knew then that my business had to do something for my local community,” he told Indian Link.
Since then, Vishal has placed a sign outside his shop to alert homeless people that food is available.
“Many customers come into the shop ordering one dimsim or one potato cake, and we have learned that it is these people who are homeless and survive with one single item of food a day.”
Approximately 50 homeless people attend the Craigieburn Fish and Chips shop on a weekly basis. There are a couple of regulars. However, Vishal explained that there are many new faces which suggests that homelessness in Craigieburn and surrounding suburbs is a concern.
For many, homelessness is a state that is often unplanned. Vishal shared that on one occasion in December 2017, he was approached by a gentleman in his store who explained that he recently suffered property damage due to a bushfire and had lost his job a week before that. With four kids to feed, he was finding it tough to survive. Vishal opened his door to the gentleman and offered his family food.
“I knew I had to help him and his family,” Vishal explained. “What was truly inspirational was that a few months after I had helped the gentleman, he came back to the shop and offered me $50 and his time if I needed any help.”
“I was amazed at the respect he showed me and I thanked him for his sincerity,” Vishal recalled.
As a business that supports the community, Craigieburn Fish and Chips manages to satisfy its operational requirements and offer food to the homeless community. “We have been in business for four years,” Ranvir explained. “We provide the community with a small offering, and the cost is manageable”.
Former local MP Ros Spence wrote to Vishal and his team congratulating them on their efforts to assist the homeless community with hot and nutritional food. The team is getting used to receiving such notes of congratulations on their efforts in feeding those in need.
In a plaza surrounded by a café, a greengrocer and a butcher, Ranvir recommends other businesses to replicate their strategy to provide the homeless community with food.
For her part, Meetu encouraged other businesses to join in the community effort. “Instead of seeing food go to waste, there is always something that we can share with those struggling to eat,” she added.
Indeed, no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.
The Craigieburn Fish and Chips shop is no ordinary fish and chip shop. Together with original flavours, the business has definitely embraced the owners’ Indian heritage with an Indian style of cooking. From tandoori fried fish to Indian styled pizza, the restaurant has taken a modern twist on traditional fish and chips.
“The community love our spiced versions of fish and chips – it’s definitely a hit with our customers,” Vishal revealed.