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At the end of a day when I’m sleep deprived and I’ve juggled a million things, getting a meal on the table for the family is often a stretch. On one particular day I remember ringing my Mum and saying, “I don’t care what we eat tonight, I’m just too tired to get anything!” Literally 10 minutes later I received a text message from a friend which simply said, “Lasagne in the oven for you!” She had no idea what I was going through that day but her timing couldn’t have been better. Just this week another friend turned up with a curry for us. These gestures mean the world to me and I am sure we are not the only family with additional needs that find it hard to put dinner on the table. When I read a blog on Hello Sydney Kids about an Occupational Therapist who was helping families I just had to share her story here.


Dinner on the Table
Rachel from Dinner on the Table

Today I’d like to introduce you to Rachel Golding from Dinner on the Table who is guest blogging about her social enterprise and her ideas on how families could be helped in the future. Rachel’s research at university (with other Occupational Therapists) really got her thinking about disability and families. One of her research projects was measuring and understanding family wellbeing in families of children with high support needs. Rachel says, “The research I’ve been involved in so far has given me a lot of time to think about what makes a difference to families living with disability and what might constitute good support from their points of view.  Dinner on the Table is an extension of that thinking in some ways: it’s a way of providing practical support, but I’m also keen to understand what parents think and whether or not having a good quality dinner done for you actually impacts your family wellbeing.”


Dinner on the Table is a social enterprise.  We change daily lives, cooking and delivering family-style meals from a weekly changing menu across much of Sydney. We reason that households everywhere have to get dinner on the table every single day.  Having a good dinner done for you gives back valuable time for the other pressures of daily life, without compromising good nutrition.

We use the profits from sales of our dinners to support a number of customers living with disability. These families order each and every week enough to feed themselves twice and we pick up the tab. When the resources are stretched thin, and the challenges great, as is the case for some families living with disability, having a good dinner done for you may significantly impact the daily life of that household.


Dinner on the table
One of the options from Dinner on the Table

Our long term goal is to change the way society supports people with disability and those closest to them, usually their families.  Disability services typically provide service to meet the needs of people with disabilities with reference to their carer(s), or other family members.  The vernacular around person-centred planning is becoming increasingly prevalent as the National Disability Insurance Scheme is rolled out across Australia.  The NDIS importantly and justly aims to provide people with disabilities increased choice and control regarding the services they need and how these should be purchased.  We argue that just as important, is supporting the needs of an entire household, including a person with a disability.

Providing a good quality dinner is a cost effective means of doing just that.  One in six Australians identifies as having a disability.  Five in six Australians don’t.  One hundred percent of both groups need to eat dinner.  Every single day. 

Dinner on the Table
One of the many options from Dinner on the Table

Preparing dinner for a household takes up a lot of time.  According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006), Australian women spend around one and three quarter hours planning, shopping for, cooking and cleaning up dinner every day.  Two dinners, whether they are gifted or paid for, saves the recipient around three and a half hours of dinner preparation time.  At around $60-70 delivered (for a large family), we don’t know of any service that gives as much time back to families at a similar cost.

The support provided by family and friend carers currently saves the Australian government over $1 BILLION each and every week (Deloitte Access Economics, 2015).  Trends suggest that while the need for informal care in the community is growing, willingness to take on this role is waning.  Support for carers is imperative to ensure that they are able to continue to support the independence and dignity of people with disabilities.

Dinner on the Table
A Dinner on the Table meal

To date in 2016, Dinner on the Table has gifted 216 meals, representing 763 adult portions, and saving the recipients 378 hours of dinner preparation time.  As our business grows, so does our ability to support more families living with disability.  Further, we are partnering with a disability service who has agreed to allow respite funding to be used for the purchase of dinners for those clients who feel it would benefit them.  We hope to partner with many more such services.

Dinner on the Table is challenging the notion of family-centred care by providing an inexpensive intervention that meets the needs of all members of a household, including people with a disability.  We are challenging the service definition of ‘respite’, suggesting that respite may come in a variety of forms, and may not always be about a person with a disability being out of the home, or with an alternate support person.  Sometimes, respite might come in the form of a Chicken & Leek Pie, that you didn’t have to prepare yourself.


I’d like to thank Rachel for her guest blog and for understanding the needs of families who have additional needs. You can whet your appetite by checking out some of the meals here.

Keep in mind that Dinner on the Table also offer gift vouchers so you can also gift a meal to a family who may need a helping hand. You can read about that here.

We’d like to ask you, would having dinner cooked for you constitute respite, or even a welcome relief? We’d really like your feedback on this one.



  1. This sounds like something I would love to get involved in. This is a win-win for everyone. It’s a wonderful feeling when you give from the heart and know you are making a difference. One less meal for someone to cook takes a big burden off their shoulders. I love it! Is this available in the U.S. too?

    • Hi Nancy

      I wish I could tell you that we had Dinner on the Table in the U.S too – I’m not aware of a similar service, but if you happen to come across one, would you let me know please? Early next year we’re going to have a student from Colorado State University come and work with us for a little while. She, like you, was captivated by what we’re doing and is going to come and experience it first hand. Who knows? Maybe she’ll get inspired to start an American Dinner on the Table?

      Thank you for your kind words. If ever you’re in Sydney, we’d love to cook for you!

    • Hi Nancy,

      Please see Rachel from Dinner on the Table’s reply. I don’t know of anything in the US but it would be great if there were services like this worldwide.


  2. Rachel’s dinners are very good and a much better and tastier alternative than processed and packaged meals from the frozen section of the supermarket.

    How wonderful to support families both emotionally and practically in this way.

    • I think I’m going to take advantage of the discount code for HWWT readers and order something to give it a try Seana. Thanks for the feedback and for sharing her story on Hello Sydney Kids. I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise.


  3. Well done Rachel, keep up the good work because, yes, dinner made for the family with a disability IS respite and needs to be highly valued as a meaningful contribution.


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