How buying dinner could help a family in need

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Founded in 2014, Dinner on the Table aims to provide customers with something they are lacking in their daily lives; time. By providing ready-made dinners to clients, the small business helps to remove the stress from everyday life and helps to put dinner on the table.

They also work to address the pressures and challenges that families living with disability face. Dinner on the Table use some of the income earned to provide the same meals at no charge to those who may need an extra helping hand. Founder Rachel Golding discusses the importance of giving back to those who face even greater challenges.

“Dinner on the Table changes daily lives. We love cooking your dinner. We’re all juggling: work, family, life! And making dinner is just one of those jobs that you have to do every single day. Dinner on the Table takes the stress out of sorting out dinner, by delivering delicious, nutritious meals to your home or workplace. All of our dinners are cooked for you, and require minimal finishing off or reheating at home,” she says.

The menu changes weekly and provides a vast variety of options, with portions being amended according to the size of the household. All customers have to do is visit the website by 6pm every Monday night for dinners to be delivered that same week across Sydney.

The idea to start the small business first came to Rachel when she was asked to cook some meals by a friend who needed some help with her daily juggle. “From a few dinners cooked in my kitchen at home, I quickly discovered a demand for ready-made, family style meals, and moved to a commercial kitchen,” she says. Rachel currently works in the kitchen with the assistance of four staff members all of whom have personal experience of disability in their lives.

Dinner on the Table provide individual meals and also cater for whole households

But Dinner on the Table differs to competing companies in the market that provide ready-made meals in two very important ways. They provide individual portioned meals and also cater to feed an entire household. Dinner on the Table are a social enterprise committed to changing the way Australians support people living with disability and their families. Over four million people in Australia have some form of disability, which is 1 in every 5 people.

“Every time one of our customers orders their dinner we use some of the money to provide the same meals to families living with disability. These families are doing the daily juggle too, often with far fewer resources and much greater challenges. We want to help change the lives of some of our society’s most vulnerable by putting dinner on their tables too. So, we have a number of customers who order every week, from the same menu as our paying customers, and using their unique code at the checkout, their balance is zero and we pick up the tab”, Rachel explains.

In a market where social enterprise is becoming a larger player, Dinner on the Table is one of only few businesses that provide identical products and services to both paying customers and to address their chosen social issue. “The only people who know whether our customers have paid or not are them and us. Having a single, mainstream service was very important to us. We all have to eat,” says Rachel.

The motivation behind this cause stems from Rachel’s background as a former postdoctoral fellow who focussed on researching family and disability.

“I often describe myself as a ‘recovering academic’. I spent a lot of years thinking about wellbeing for families in which a family member has a disability, about the experience of having a disability and about what supports families best. We know that some families living with disability thrive in the most extraordinarily challenging situations, while others face painful, crisis-driven family breakdown,” she says.

“We reason that giving that time back, without compromising quality nutrition, might just impact family wellbeing: for all of us, but perhaps most especially for families living with disability. Avoiding crisis driven family breakdown, particularly for families living with disability, saves untold emotional burden as well the financial cost to government of providing specialised support services.”

Dinner on the Table provide quality ready-made meals 

To date the company has gifted 817 dinners, representing 2,802 adult portions and saving gifted meal customers 1,430 hours of dinner preparation time. Personal stories of how Dinner on the Table has assisted families living with disability can be found on their website. Rachel shares one particular story that has struck a chord with her recently.

“I once received an email from a woman with a son with autism. She has no family in Australia and felt overwhelmed to the point where she was battling depression and anxiety herself. She didn’t feel she could ask her friends for help as they were all so busy with their own families, but she also didn’t think they realised how much pressure she was under. She contacted us for support, which we willingly gave. We’ve never actually met, but she sends me a note of thanks every week about the difference having dinners makes to her family, and how it helps her cope,” she says.

Hearing stories like this is what inspires Rachel to further expand the company’s impact. She is now hoping to partner with disability services in her local area to support people with disabilities with work opportunities in their kitchen. “One day we hope to have a premises where we can grow some of our own produce for our dinners, working with people with disabilities to maintain the garden,” she notes.

Possible volunteering opportunities are also on the agenda as well as partnering with delis, cafes, play centres and places where busy families gather and may benefit from quality take-home meals they can pick up whilst there.

“I envisage Dinner on the Table as a place where people with disabilities receive the support they need to have meaningful jobs, working in our garden, in our kitchen, and on our delivery team. We can also provide the extraordinary flexibility in work options that those caring for people with disabilities often require.” She hopes to move into a larger commercial kitchen with a productive garden around it in the future.

Dinner on the Table currently partners with a number of disability support services as well as a school for children and young people with disabilities but doesn’t receive any sponsorship or government assistance.

“I’m convinced that by building one thriving business, and by partnering with other organisations around us, we can change the way we think about support for people with disabilities and the people who are important to them.”

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Inga Kaminic
Inga is a Master of Media Practice graduate from the University of Sydney and a contributing writer for Kochie's Business Builders.

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