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Muslim women volunteer their time to cook free meals during Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdown

A group of female Muslim volunteers have given up their time to cook free meals for families struggling to put food on the table during Melbourne’s second COVID-19 lockdown.

Every Friday women from across the city’s Muslim community cook up dishes including chicken korma, lentil soup and rice from a commercial kitchen provided by Moreland City Council in Melbourne’s north.

The head of the volunteer group said she hoped the program would change attitudes about Muslim women’s participation in Australian society.

‘There is a stereotype of women in hijab that they are not doing anything for the community,’ Muslim Women’s Council of Victoria chairperson Afshan Mantoo told SBS Urdu.

‘When someone takes food, they say, ‘oh! a Muslim woman is doing something’; it feels good.’

She said those who take the food are from a variety of personal backgrounds and religions – from white Australians to Indians and Sikhs.

‘Students, families, refugees and people from all walks of life come and take the food we prepare,’ she said.

The food is served in large packs that can last families for as long as three days – with staff taking additional steps including mask-wearing and regular temperature checks to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines. 

Ms Mantoo said the group of volunteers themselves came from many different walks of life, giving up time from their regular day jobs to help those suffering the most from the effects of lock down. 

Melbourne returned to stage three social distancing restrictions on July 8 as COVID-19 infections surged in Australia’s second most populated city.

Those living in Melbourne and neighbouring Mitchell Shire can only leave home for one four essential reasons – shopping for food and supplies, to give care, exercise or to study and work. 

Victoria on Sunday confirmed another 459 coronavirus cases and 10 more deaths from the respiratory illness.

Premier Daniel Andrews has refused to say whether the six-week lockdown, which is almost halfway through, would be extended or finish on time. 

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