The Ballarat Italian Association and the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council have partnered on a new program to provide fresh food to refugees and asylum seekers in need.
Twice a month, families enrolled in the Living Together Box program through the Ballarat Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support Network will receive a box of fresh food. One box will be provided by the BRMC and the second by the BIA.
To support the program, the BIA has pledged to donate $450 every month for five months to pay for the fruit and vegetables for those in need.
The first delivery from Peach's Fruit Market in Wendouree arrived at the Ballarat Welcome Centre on Tuesday.
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BRMC community engagement team leader Heeyoung Lim said refugees and asylum seekers were especially vulnerable in the past 12 months due to not being eligible for government support.
"Last year, we established a variety of programs for the multicultural people with refugee or asylum seeker backgrounds because of COVID-19, many of them lost their jobs and or decreased their workloads and in that case, their income decreased so we tried to find ways to support them," she said.
"I know that we all had difficult situations, but especially the people who have a refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.
"Because they are not permanent residents or citizens, they couldn't receive any support from the government like JobKeeper or JobSeeker, so they were excluded and they really needed to get support."
After the previous food donation program finished in December, Ms Lim said the BRMC had been looking other avenues of funding to support those in need.
"We were lucky to have a conversation with the Ballarat Italian Association. They wanted to support this and decided to provide 15 boxes of fresh food and vegetables, once a month, for five months," she said.
"If the Ballarat Italian Association did not make this decision, we couldn't have this program so we really appreciate [their support]."
BIA committee member Carla Woodruff said the organisation had been looking for a project to continue its association with the BRMC and BRASSN.
"We knew that they were looking for fresh food supplies, so we connected with Heeyoung and thought a practical way of helping the families was to provide boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables from Peach's on a monthly basis," she said.
"We wanted to broaden our connection in the community, other than just the Italian community.
"There are links between the hardships that the migrants, Italian migrants in particular, who came to Australia and some who settled in Ballarat, arriving with very little other than a suitcase and no idea of the language and struggled to get established, so it's really important for us to support this wider migrant community."
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