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Three Melbourne Cafes offering more than just your usual food and drink

Melbourne takes the crown for inspiring places that offer a dining experience that is equal parts delicious and good for the soul. Meet three establishments combining good food with a good cause.  

1. Mahshid Babzartabi

When Iranian-born Mahshid Babzartabi fled persecution in her home city of Tehran, she found herself running through thick jungle in the middle of the night to catch a boat. Arriving in Australia in 2013, Babzartabi, a US-educated business translator, spent time in a detention centre before re-settling in Melbourne. 

It was here that she decided to set up a Cafe in the back hall of a church with the sole purpose of bringing people with experiences and histories just like hers together, to enjoy good food and to heal. Established four years ago the cafe's profits support other refugees and the cafe (which is currently on hiatus) has already supported over 700 people.

“Food for me is something that brings people together,” says Mahshid. “Watching people come to the cafe, I met people who didn’t necessarily support asylum, but came anyway, because they liked the food. But that’s the magic of food; through sharing it with others, I saw feelings change and friendships form. Food is a consolation to many people, a chance to grow and to heal.”

Babzartabi also teaches cooking classes and recently appeared on SBS's cooking show The Chef's Line.

2. Feast of Merit

Feast of Merit is a cafe and restaurant where you can dine and support various charity programs at the same time. Also in Melbourne, the venue is an initiative of the Y-Generation Against Poverty or YGAP, a charity that aids leadership and youth education projects in Australia, Bangladesh, Ghana, Malawi, Cambodia, and Rwanda. They are also the same group behind the Kinfolk cafe (also Melbourne-based) which gives all of its profits to development projects.


“Feasting is one of my favourite things to do” 📷 @nko1979

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Their menu is created with sharing in mind, too. Head chef Aryan cooks and serves Middle Eastern inspired dishes that are meant for communal tables. 


STREAT is committed to stopping youth homelessness. With four inner Melbourne cafes, a small batch roastery, and a catering business under its belt, the Collingwood not-for-profit coffee business provides formal training and life skills to young, homeless people who have experienced mental health issues, family violence, alcohol abuse, and have spent a long time away from school.

“Most of them were taken off their parents by age five and probably spent 10 years in a foster care-type system,” says manager Ian Johnson.

STREAT's unique approach is to learn each young person’s hopes and dreams and create youth programs to help them reach them. They have a range of social and creative activities as well as vocational training programs, giving participants a good start in the hospitality industry.

"It had really started to bother me that in my own country there were so many homeless young people,” says Rebecca Scott, the co-founder and chief executive of STREAT. “We needed to find ways to address homelessness in a holistic way in Australia.”

"One of the challenges is in the way we have thought about homelessness for a long, long time as a housing issue. Homelessness isn't just a housing issue,” she adds.

The enterprise has grown exponentially since they launched their first coffee cart in 2010. To date, they’ve trained and supported more than 500 homeless teenagers and have served over 1.5 million cups of coffee in Melbourne.

It's heartwarming and inspiring to hear about food and beverage businesses taking their passions and creating spaces for people to come together for the greater good. We're looking forward to bringing you more stories like these from all over Australia. 

In the meantime, if you’d like to read more industry insights like this, just visit our blog.

Ordermentum Insights

Our insights team is made up of passionate writers, researchers, chefs, baristas, web developers, tech gurus, our Founders, and even an accountant. We keep a pulse on the Food & Beverage industry to bring you insights and research to help our industry trade smarter.

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