Ermington resident Cristina Assuncao was working on the frontline of a supermarket during the long winter COVID-19 lockdown.

Meal Share recipient Cristina Assuncao with Kick Start Café Manager Benjamin Weinroth. Photo: Sean O’Sullivan

Taking her job seriously, she was determined to help elderly people get all they needed during the stressful days during the lockdown.

“It was a devastating time; there were people coming in who didn’t have the money to buy all the food they needed,’’ she said.

Cristina said it was tough to see older people struggling and living with fear and anxiety.

Working long days left her drained and exhausted.

With her ailing parents outside her lockdown area, she was isolated.

As the cold months dragged on, while caring for her beloved dogs, Cristina neglected her health, including meals.

It wasn’t long before isolation, concern for her unwell parents, a bout of pneumonia and a lack of nutrition was taking their toll on her health.

“I was literally going to work on empty, dragging myself back home not wanting to cook anymore because I was so drained,’’ Cristina said.

“I was just going downhill.’’

That’s when a friend stepped in and suggested that I reach out to the PAYCE Foundation-supported program Meal Share.

PAYCE Foundation established the COVID-19 seven-day meal delivery service through its social enterprise Kick Start to assist the vulnerable in the local area.

Kick Start operates a fleet of mobile food trailers on construction sites across Sydney, which feed hungry construction workers and provide on-the-job training for young people seeking a new career.

With the food deliveries, Cristina started to regain her strength.

She said the food was amazing, and the bi-weekly drop-off from the friendly Kick Start team and volunteers was something she looked forward to.

“We really needed a service like this – absolutely amazing work,’’ Cristina said.

“It was amazing to know that someone cared enough about me to feed me – I was like I am not alone.

“I was feeling thank God – there is a light at the end of the tunnel.’’