Ballarat businesses, welfare organisations and community groups are working together to ensure people experiencing financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic can access nutritious meals.
The Ballarat-Eureka Apex group has donated $4500 to the Pay It Forward Ballarat program, enabling Country Casseroles to deliver 100 meals for distribution through Salvation Army Ballarat once a fortnight.
This is an expansion of Country Casseroles' regular delivery of meals to Salvation Army and The Soup Bus.
Pay It Forward Ballarat founder and Country Casseroles owner Ian Tantau said he recognised the next three to four months were a critical time for those less fortunate in Ballarat.
"The cold weather coming in makes it more important for people to have a good meal and something warm in their bellies," he said.
"With the assistance of Ballarat-Eureka Apex group, we can deliver additional hot meals."
Salvation Army Ballarat team leader John Clonan said nearly all the meals provided during the first fortnightly Country Casseroles delivery on May 13 were picked up, showing the need for food relief in the community.
The cold weather coming in makes it more important for people to have a good meal and something warm in their bellies.Ian Tantau, Pay It Forward
The Salvation Army also offers 65 takeaway meals on a Tuesday and Thursday at 12pm to replace its regular sit down three course meals program that was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Mr Clonan said the extra meals offered on a Wednesday each fortnight were appreciated by people experiencing financial hardship.
"It is heartening to see people who would normally present here for a three course sit down lunch out and about," he said.
"They come on their mobile scooters, in taxis, drive in cars and walk in and they can also take an extra meal home for a family member, particularly those who might be in the at risk group and are in isolation."
Ballarat-Eureka Apex group treasurer Carsten Berberich said the funds donated to Pay It Forward were raised through the group's annual Christmas Tree sale.
He said the group selected Pay It Forward as the recipient of the funds to support a Ballarat business that is supporting the community.
"It works on two fronts. We like when people have an initiative and push it through and we believe it is worth supporting people who have initiatives like this," Mr Berberich said.
"The donation helps underpin that program, expand it and allow it to continue with a bit more certainty.
"People need to eat healthy food and going into winter they need to be able to sustain themselves. This is helping some people who need a little bit of help."
People experiencing financial hardship can access a free takeaway Country Casseroles meal on May 27 at 12pm at the Salvation Army Ballarat Community Church.
Meals are also available on a Tuesday and Thursday weekly at 12pm.
Salvation Army also offers a phone financial counselling service and emergency food relief that can be arranged by phoning 5337 0600.
Salvation Army will also resume providing lunches to children at school when school returns.
Mr Berberich said the Ballarat Eureka Apex group was looking for new members to increase its ability to support the community - visit facebook.com/BallaratEurekaApexClub.