For Change Middle Park cafe serves coffee and social change from a tiny railway building

Social enterprise cafe For Change, Middle Park has opened in a former railway building.
Social enterprise cafe For Change, Middle Park has opened in a former railway building. Photo: Janna Bennett

A quaint railway building in Middle Park is now home to a social enterprise cafe serving Five Senses coffee and wholesome plant-based food while training young people so they can escape homelessness.

For Change Co moved into the tiny weatherboard structure in May after signing a three-year peppercorn lease with building owner Yarra Trams.

Located on the route 96 tram line, it has seating for 12 inside and a deck overlooking Albert Park. Mart 130 cafe previously occupied the building until it was damaged by fire in February 2018.

Plant-based plates at For Change in Middle Park.
Plant-based plates at For Change in Middle Park. Photo: Janna Bennett

At For Change, diners can choose from bircher muesli with blueberry compote, house-baked pastries, fried cauliflower and baba ghanoush rolls, or corn and jalapeno fritters with black rice. Former Matteo sous chef Ross Eckersley is one of the hospitality professionals on staff sharing their skills.

Trainees spend between six and eight months working at For Change Co's cafes before they're supported to find permanent employment, either in hospitality or another field.

"Employment and everything that comes with that – confidence, community building – is central to keeping them out of the cycle of homelessness in the long-term," says For Change Co's CEO Tenille Gilbert.

CEO Tenille Gilbert is delighted to have the cafe up and running after signing a lease last year.
CEO Tenille Gilbert is delighted to have the cafe up and running after signing a lease last year. Photo: Wayne Taylor

The not-for-profit, established in 2015, runs five other social enterprises around Melbourne, from coffee carts to cafes, and will add another in the northern suburbs by spring. The Middle Park cafe boosts the number of trainee places available by 30 per cent.

Gilbert says the plant-based focus is another way to invest in young people's futures by not contributing to food-related carbon emissions. The cafes don't use gas and also compost their waste.

Open daily 8am-2.30pm, Middle Park Light Rail Station, Canterbury Road, Middle Park, forchangeco.com.au