From chaplain to chef: how Western Sydney University staff are bringing students together with virtual cooking classes

Community and cooking go hand in hand at WSU's Campus Living Village. ...

One Western Sydney University Chaplain’s passion for creating community and social connections won’t be flickered out by COVID-19 restrictions.

At the front of this operation is Daniel Jantos, the Chaplaincy Coordinator at Western Sydney University. llustration: Canva

The Chaplaincy team offers an online soup kitchen program that runs each Wednesday from 5:30 pm. The experience promises a fresh, wholesome meal, ready in less than an hour, prepared under the guidance of your Chaplaincy team. Grocery packs, filled with ingredients needed for the recipe of the day, are delivered to the Campus Living Village front desk for on-campus students to pick up.

If you live off campus, you are still welcome to join. The team will do their very best to get the ingredients to all interested students at their designated addresses. Students then join the zoom call or tune into Instagram live and cook alongside the Chaplaincy team. They follow a recipe and turn the fresh ingredients into a scrumptious meal.

At the front of this operation is Daniel Jantos, the Chaplaincy Coordinator at Western Sydney University. The Chaplaincy team offers a caring presence to all staff and students at the University; encouraging spirituality while prompting unity in all matters of faith, offering hospitality and creating community programs.

Daniel believes that, “Hospitality is the essence of the chaplaincy service’s purpose. You are welcome here, you belong here, we are in this together.”

Daniel tells me that Western Sydney University started the soup kitchen program approximately three years ago after a student leader suggested the campuses have food pantries for students to access. The Western Sydney University the webpage says the program launched at Campbelltown and due to its popularity it has since expanded to Hawkesbury, Bankstown, Kingswood, 1PSQ and also at Parramatta North [student residential] village every fortnight.

Daniel also mentions,“When COVID came along a lot of students were very saddened by the need for us to end the program – we decided to go online.” 

This is not the first program of its kind as several famous chefs have been using social media to share cooking classes with their fans. More recently, several small cafes and restaurants have also been participating in similar programs. Research conducted by the Australian Catholic University suggests that online platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, have positive impacts on feelings of connectedness.

Describing the experience, Daniel said,“It connects my kitchen to the kitchen of a whole lot of students and connects us in a way that means everyone is holding up their bowls to the camera to show off what they have made.”

Daniel admits the jump to the virtual kitchen was challenging and that he was a little resistant to the idea. However, he was surprised by how much of a community had been formed online.  Mr. Jantos explains that students from across Western Sydney are participating from Sutherland, Kensington to Campbelltown, and even out at Richmond. He gushes about the program’s support staff, Larissa Baker, Emily Liddell and Cheryl Jendrachowski, who have been working hard to get the groceries to people.

When asked about the challenges faced, Daniel joked about people’s chili tolerance. He tells students not to dump all the chili in and that it is only for those who absolutely love it hot. He says, “A student once dumped all their chili in the soup and said, ‘Whoops, that’s going to be a hot soup.’”

Daniel talks about these weekly events with so much conviction, noting that he feels overwhelmed by the amount of love and gratitude in the online space.  He tells me he feels the program offers students relief from isolation and loneliness and that’s what’s important during these trying times.

If you’re interested in joining the weekly cooking class register here. If you’re not a Western Sydney University Student, you can still watch all the fun on their Instagram wsustudentlife.




COVID-19 through the eyes of a pharmacy assistant

Pharmacy assistants are used to seeing it all, but nothing could've prepared anyone for COVID-19....
Pharmacy assistant with gloves at register, EFTPOS machine in cling wrap. Image: Stephanie Clarke

Pharmacy assistants are used to seeing it all. Ingrown toenails, fungal infections, burns, open wounds … you name it. Although no two days in pharmacy are the same, nothing could have prepared us for the Coronavirus.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a major impact on pharmacies and the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. Panic-buying of items such as products containing paracetamol, hand sanitiser, face masks and sanitary pads have caused extensive shortages.

The initial panic began towards the end of February, with customers rushing into the shop looking for two things, face masks and hand sanitiser. Due to the amount of people asking for them, we created a waiting list, which has now grown to around 300 names.

In mid-March, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced that pharmacists would only be able to supply one month’s worth of certain prescription medication. They also announced that certain non-prescription medication such as paracetamol, would be limited to one per person.

As the weeks went on, people were forced to become more resourceful, as most of what they wanted was out of stock. They began to stock up on isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera gel. Which, you guessed it, they were using to create their own hand sanitiser!

Sign explaining the one per person limit. Image: Stephanie Clarke

Tensions began to rise as we enforced the TGA’s limits. People became furious about the fact that they could no longer get multiple months’ supply of their prescription medication and that they couldn’t buy two boxes of children’s paracetamol.

The children’s paracetamol section. Image: Stephanie Clarke

Our pharmacy is located in a shopping centre and is next door to Woolworths. It became apparent that people were coming into our store to get items that they could no longer find in Woolworths.

We were unable to cope with this massive influx of customers, even though we began to limit in-demand items to one per person. Before we knew it, there were hardly any sanitary pads or toothpaste and no tissues, baby wipes or soap.

The sanitary pads section. Image: Stephanie Clarke

These uncertain times have called for safety measures to be put in place to ensure that staff members and customers feel safe in our store, they include:

  • No longer offering beauty services (makeup application, consultations)
  • No longer doing ear piercing
  • Removing all testers (makeup included)
  • Placing cling wrap on the EFTPOS machines and changing it hourly
  • Wearing gloves when on the register
  • More frequent cleaning of surfaces and baskets
  • Social distancing is being enforced (crosses marked on floor for customers to safely stand on)


Social distancing being enforced at the dispensary. Image: Stephanie Clarke

One of my colleagues, Sue Lewis, has worked in the pharmacy sector for 29 years. “I’ve never experienced anything like what is currently going on,” she told me.

“I’m not really very stressed about the virus, I’ve been trying to reassure myself that we’re going to be okay.

“We’ve got intelligent people in the area who are going to do the right thing and stay home and self-isolate,” she said.

As pharmacies have been classified as an essential service and are therefore excluded from being shut down, staff are confident that things will remain the same for a while.


Food Delivery services boosting during the Coronavirus period

While food delivery services are thriving during COVID-19, the story is different for local restaurants. ...

“They’re doing essential work to keep our communities moving as we fight the virus”

Sydney Manoush advertising they’re “now on Uber Eats” (Instagram)






Food delivery services are considered to be thriving during the Coronavirus period in Australia, facilitating to customers in self isolation. The rapid spread of the virus has had a drastic impact on the food industry, in particular local restaurants and cafes within Chipping Norton.

Considered an essential service, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi claims that the food delivery drivers are an essential to our community during this time.

“The most important thing we can do right now is support drivers,” says Ms Khosrowshahi.

“They’re doing essential work to keep our communities moving as we fight the virus, but with fewer trips happening they need more ways to earn,” she says.

As individuals are self-isolating in their own homes following the instructions of the NSW Government, local food businesses in Chipping Norton have slowed down due to a decrease in customers walking through the doors.

In late March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison lifted restrictions for restaurants, allowing some flexibility for them to continue generating an income.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announcing new restrictions. Source: ABC News

“Food courts in shopping centres will not allowed to continue,” PM Morrison says.

“Getting takeaway food from outlets can continue, because takeaway is able to be done,” continues Mr Morrison.


Although this may seem like a successful strategy for local restaurants, many don’t find it convenient.

Jehad Abdel-Malek, Founder of Sydney Manoush, shares how these food delivery services have put a financial strain on his business. Establishing Sydney Manoush in 2019,  Mr Abdel Malek has found that Uber Eats has become his main delivery service.

“With Uber in Sales, we’re probably doing anywhere between $1000 and up in sales. But then uber takes 35%, so the week that just went past, we paid $1100 just in one week to uber just in fees,” Mr Abdel-Malek shares.

“That’s why a lot of small businesses find it hard to use uber cause they’re killing themselves with all the fees they’re being charged,” continues Mr Abdel-Malek.

In the past week, the NSW government has recently announced that restrictions are beginning to ease for some businesses.

As of May 15th, 2020, restaurants and pubs are set to reopen for business. However, 10 patrons are permitted to be seated provided they adhere to the four-square metre policy, excluding staff.

At a recent press conference, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has reassured that she was hesitant about easing these restrictions. However, trusts that restaurants and pub owners will be responsible with the social distancing policy.

“The last thing you want to get the disease or spread the disease as you’re waiting in queue for a service or to purchase something,” says Premier Berejiklian.

However, many restaurants are still reluctant to open their doors for dinners as they struggle to make profit under the restrictions.