Families and individuals struggling during the pandemic crisis can turn to the Ballarat Neighbourhood Centre for meals and support, and thanks to donations from the community, Freight Bar has donated dozens more meals to help.
The Neighbourhood Centre's executive officer Vicki Coltman said a team of volunteers used to do the cooking for community meals, but current health restrictions, and a focus on safety, led to just three people in the kitchen, plus a number of other neighbourhood houses have closed.
She said the help from Freight's chefs was appreciated, as the first delivery of 40 meals arrived on Thursday in time for Good Friday.
"We've been doing this for a couple of weeks now, and the people we're doing this for are very much in need," she said.
"It's normally a lot of elderly people who come into the centre on Friday for lunch, but now we're finding it's changing, now elderly people are no longer able to come in, and we're now seeing families come in.
"Last week we had a lady who rang up, she had five kids, crying, she had no food, so we were able to give her some bread, fresh vegetables, and fruit to take home for her kids."
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The centre works with other support agencies in the area, as well as food donation charities like SecondBite, to prepare the meals.
The broader community can do their part as well - as well as offering takeaway and frozen pub meals, Freight's Donate-A-Meal program involves people paying it forward so the meals can be delivered every Friday.
Owner Chris Sargent said he was amazed at the response so far.
"I'm incredibly stoked by the support the program has already received," he said in a statement.
"Our first five days saw almost 40 meals donated to those in need.
"It's been a really tough time on our business, and our staff, and we wanted to find a way to help support others in need.
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"The support we've received over the last month from the local community has been overwhelming."
Customers can order a meal from over the phone and ask to donate an extra one for $10, or get in touch online - a website will launch next week.
Anyone in need of the Ballarat Neighbourhood Centre's services, including the Feed Local Food Aid to Help Local Families program, is urged to phone 5329 3273 - Ms Coltman said people needed to book ahead, due to distancing restrictions.
People can also donate food to the centre, and Ms Coltman encouraged people with spare fruit in their backyard to drop it off at 11 Tuppen Drive, Sebastopol.
For more information on COVID-19, visit dhhs.vic.gov.au/novelcoronavirus or phone the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 for advice if you are displaying symptoms.
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