Greg Geering (centre) at the city food stall.

Greg Geering (centre) at the city food stall. Photo: Justin McManus

The maverick founder of a grassroots City Square daily food stall for the homeless has vowed to continue indefinitely after lasting seven weeks without council intervention.

In an echo of the unrelated Occupy Melbourne movement in which anti-establishment protesters camped in the square three years ago, volunteers from the Recycled Food Network set up a marquee each afternoon, handing out free food donated from cafes.

Founder Greg Geering, 31, a computer engineer who works in Collins Street, said his group is staunchly non-aligned with any churches. 

He said some homeless people say that at religious food vans and stalls, they feel they are treated more as “clients” than human beings, and staff often have superior attitudes and won’t eat the food they are handing out. 

"I find that to be quite disgusting. It’s like, it’s good enough for the people on the street but not good enough for them." 

At his City Square stall, “people will see me eating there so they feel safe, they can see the food is OK and it’s good enough for me”.

He said the idea behind it was ”to be ‘humans to humans’ and if they’re in a position [where] they need to eat, they shouldn’t be treated any differently if they didn’t need it - people being treated as equals”.

But he said people come not so much for the food but to sit down and talk. “A lot of people open up, just by relaxing and having a meal with someone. It’s easy to open up and talk about your issues and things you have going on in your life.”

Mr Geering said the council has not approved the stall, but nor has it asked them to leave.

His understanding is that because the network is not selling food, it does not require a permit and they are on public land. 

A City of Melbourne spokesman said Mr Geering had made contact but the council did not want to comment further.

Mr Geering said it started in late July when he befriended a homeless man in the square.

They decided to approach cafes for surplus food, and at two of the first three cafes staff gave them about 20 sandwiches, salads and dim sims, which they handed out from a box.

Now, each day he and up to 10 volunteers go to 17 cafes for food donations, and from 5pm to 7.30pm (1pm to 5pm on weekends), give it out to up to 80 people.

Margaret, 45, who was until recently homeless for two years, said the square was close to toilets, public transport and welfare services and she loved that it was secular. “Some people just don’t go to the Salvos,” she said. “They don’t like to feel like they’re needy. I know some people that won’t even come [to a church food van] and I’ll take food back for them because they don’t want to be judged by other people walking by, and to be around that scene. I know it’s sad but it’s true.” 

Mr Geering has taken leave from his professional consulting job in Melbourne and Sydney to work on the food service, which he plans to run indefinitely. “I hope that it will continue through the help of people around the area.”

He wants to set up similar stalls at the State Library of Victoria, Queen Victoria Market and Southern Cross Station. 

Contact the Recycled Food Network on Facebook or by email: info@intentcity.org