Free breakfasts helping the Boronia community access vital support services

Boronia Community Breakfast program volunteers

A community breakfast program is connecting Boronia locals with support services and each other.

People in Boronia can now enjoy free breakfasts five days a week thanks to a local community breakfast program, which is uniting those in need as well as providing important links to support services.

“Breakfast is an important start to the day, it puts you in a good mindset really,” says Denise Budge, centre manager at Knox InfoLink, a community information centre, and an organiser of the program.

“We’re just trying to meet the needs of most people.”

The program is running five days a week, which Denise notes will play a key role in its success.

“The people who are likely to use the breakfast program, sometimes their lives can be very complicated. Remembering which day breakfast is on can be challenging. If they just know, ‘I can get a hot breakfast, Monday to Friday’ then it doesn’t matter. It’s about meeting the needs of those in our community.”

Photograph of Denise BudgeImportantly, the community breakfast program offers more than just food. Thanks to $148,000 in funding from the Victorian Government’s Suburban Revitalisation Program, the program includes support for a dedicated case worker who is on-hand at the breakfasts, providing friendly advice and connects people with local services.

“The case worker is going to be a very important link between the guests and other services, they will support our guests, work through their challenges when they’re ready to, but in a very friendly and supportive way. They won’t be left on their own.”

This has already provided invaluable support, in one instance, to a breakfast guest who was experiencing homelessness. Having recently recovered from COVID-19, case workers assisted them by securing a vaccination appointment within the hour.

That person continued to attend the breakfast program. As Knox Infolink staff got to know them and the struggles they were facing, the team was able to secure temporary accommodation through Uniting Homelessness Services for the week. They have since returned to the breakfast and are more positive and engaged, with the knowledge that there is always help available.

A reference group is helping guide the project, with representatives from organisations including local health service EACH, Knox City Council, Uniting Homeless Service, the local police station, the Basin Community House and St Paul’s Church, which will host the breakfast one day each week.

The idea is that representatives from each organisation will drop by the breakfasts every so often for an informal chat with guests.

The Boronia Community Breakfast Program is one of several initiatives in Boronia supported by the Suburban Revitalisation Program, which works with communities to plan and deliver infrastructure, community development and engagement initiatives.

These projects focus on boosting localised social and economic outcomes, especially as businesses and communities recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

Suburban Revitalisation Boards, consisting of representatives from State Government, Local Government, the community and business,  help to identify, support and deliver local economic and community renewal opportunities in selected activity centres across metropolitan Melbourne.  The eight activity centres are Noble Park, Boronia, Broadmeadows, Frankston, Lilydale, Melton, Reservoir, and Tarneit.

Other areas that have also received significant support recently include Altona, Thomastown, Lalor and Springvale. Back in Boronia, Denise has been impressed with the community’s response to the program. Before they served a single meal, organisers had signed up 25 volunteers to help support guests.

“It’s very exciting, it’s something the community seems to be quite interested in being involved in,” she says. “It’s a friendly, engaging and inclusive activity [and] a more accessible way of volunteering.”

Further information on the Boronia Breakfasts program can be found on the Knox Infolink Facebook page.

The Office for Suburban Development engages with local stakeholders and communities to identify their needs and aspirations, and deliver projects to improve local community involvement, infrastructure and services.