A new meals program is helping to ease the burden for parents and carers of hospitalised children, as well as provide much-needed support to local restaurants and cafes that are doing it tough.
Mobile Meals from the Heart is a new initiative at Ronald McDonald House Canberra that provides families with a comforting dinner at the end of a long day spent on the wards supporting their children.
For young mum Natalie, 24, the program has been “a lifesaver” during her record-breaking stay of eight months while she cares for her seriously ill daughter.
Twice a week, Natalie, who lives in Tumut NSW, looks forward to the meals from local eateries delivered during the COVID-19 restrictions and generously paid for by public donations.
“It means that for two nights a week I don’t have to worry about what I am going to cook for dinner or go the shops to get groceries,” she said.
Importantly, this allows Natalie to spend more time caring for eight-month-old Addison, who has been hospitalised since her birth last September at Canberra’s Centenary Hospital for Women and Children. However, the end of her lengthy stay is in sight as her daughter may be discharged within eight weeks.
In recent months, Natalie has been grateful for the nutritious dinners delivered through the Mobile Meals from the Heart program.
“We are so grateful to those who donate and also to the volunteers who give their time to make it such a great place to stay,” she said.
“Families like myself would be left broke, stressed and very depressed if it weren’t for people donating in any kind of way.”
Prior to COVID-19 restrictions, Ronald McDonald House Canberra ran a Meals from the Heart program, where corporate and community organisations would come in to cook for families twice a week. Natalie said it was a great chance to meet new people and have a break from the constant hospital routine.
Since March, the House has had to rely on mobile meals deliveries funded by public donations.
Ronald McDonald House Canberra executive officer, Michelle McCormack, said, “for a family staying with us to know dinner is taken care of, for even just one night, can mean the world”.
“After an emotional day caring for a sick child, parents and carers struggle for energy to prepare a meal. Having a warm meal ready for when they return in one less thing for them to worry about,” she said.
“Our Meals from the Heart Program is valued by families and those in the community who support it, so we decided to make it mobile – this means we can also look to support businesses who are doing it tough through this COVID-19 period.”
Ronald McDonald House Canberra, located at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children, provides accommodation for families with unwell babies and children from across south-east NSW.
The facility, which has 11 ensuite guest rooms accommodating more than 260 families annually, is one of 18 Ronald McDonald Houses across Australia.
Community members are welcome to donate to the Mobile Meals from the Heart program by visiting www.rmhc.org.au/actmeals and selecting their preferred restaurant and dollar amount.