More than a meal: community groups create connection through food 

1 August 2023

There are few better ways to connect with people than over a good meal. 

This is something that the Vietnamese and Indochinese Elders Social Group knows to be true.

Founded in 1987 by local Kim Lan, the group is a place for older women from these communities to connect and share culture. They have been meeting regularly at Kensington Neighbourhood House for more than 35 years. 

Every fortnight, the group comes together to partake in gentle exercise, listen to guest speakers and prepare a hearty meal, which they enjoy together.  

A large group of older people seated at a long table sharing a meal together.
Members of the Vietnamese and Indochinese Elders Social Group share a meal together

“Our fortnightly meetings offer a supportive and inclusive environment to not only combat loneliness, but also allow the members to find like-minded people and feel like we belong,” founder Kim said. 

The women leave each gathering with more than just full bellies. Preparing these meals together provides a sense of purpose and routine for the members.  

“Coming together every second Thursday is something we look forward to each time,” Kim said.

“We are able to prepare and eat our meals together while sharing stories and memories about the food as well as our lives. The meals that we enjoy together are also sometimes meals that members cannot cook at home by themselves, so we are able to provide as a group instead,” she said.

This chance to exchange culinary knowledge has been particularly rewarding. Sharing techniques and traditions is a way for the group to feel connected not only to their fellow members, but with their cultures. 

“We have learned about the different dishes that everyone enjoys and the way that they prepare them. While the dishes may have the same name, everyone has a special way of cooking it to their taste,” Kim said. 

“Most of the meals we make are traditional Asian cuisine. Occasionally we will also prepare something more Western, introducing members to new food for them to enjoy.” 

The City of Melbourne is committed to helping older people combat loneliness, feel connected with their community and have access to nutritious, culturally-appropriate food.

Coming together for a meal gives older people a sense of routine and purpose

We are proud to support initiatives such as The Vietnamese and Indochinese Elders Social Group through our Community Meals Subsidy Program, which provides funding and support to not-for-profit organisations that are creating opportunities for social cohesion and connection among older people through food. 

Kim knows well just how important these opportunities are for older people. 

“We connect, share and celebrate our cultural backgrounds, but also help each other where we can. This is especially important for the more elderly members who may not know or have access to services that they need,” she said.

Applications for the Community Meals Subsidy Program are open now until 5pm, Thursday 31 August. The program offers a subsidy of $6 per meal provided. Funding caps and eligibility criteria apply. Apply online.

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