More than 150 people in our region experiencing disadvantage have received hot, home cooked meals this year – many delivered to their doorstep - thanks to the generosity of local businesses and volunteers.
Monday Norlane Neighbourhood Meal (at home) has supported 152 people, including 46 children, from 54 households this year. Support has mainly been for residents of Norlane experiencing disadvantage, as well as some in Corio and Lara.
Organised by local community organisation Norlane Community Initiatives (NCI), Monday Norlane Neighbourhood Meal has been supporting members of the Norlane community for the past 15 years.
Until earlier this year, members of the Norlane community have come together every Monday at their much-loved Spruhan Ave community centre to shop, cook, prepare and then eat a meal together.
In April, NCI was forced to close the community centre’s doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Simon and Kaylene Reeves, who run NCI, began exploring different ways to continue the weekly service. With support from Bisinella Director Richard Bisinella, Monday Norlane Neighbourhood Meal (at home) was launched, to ensure the program could continue.
The program initially supported 30 households experiencing hardship with a hot, home-cooked meal every Monday. Over the past nine months this number has increased to 54.
Residents could either have their meals home delivered or they could pick them up from the centre.
Since April, Geelong business leaders Lino Bisinella, Frank Costa and the Fagg family have generously provided funds for the program so that NCI could continue to provide meals for the community.
Meals have come from local cafes or cooked on-site at the community centre.
Mr Reeves said the support from local businesses had been incredibly helpful.
Since April, 3740 hot meals have been served to local residents.
“Cooking meals for 150 people each week and packing and delivering them is a big effort. This support eased the load on our volunteers so they didn’t burn out. It has also enabled us time to plan our Christmas Eve lunch which we may not have been able to do without this support.”
The Christmas Eve meal has become a tradition for the Norlane community over the past eight years. For many people this Christmas lunch will be the only traditional Christmas meal they will have.
Mr Reeves said the Monday night meals allowed residents to breathe easier knowing they didn’t have to worry about one meal of the week.
He said the chance for a quick chat with volunteers at their front door or at the community centre ensured residents still felt connected during lockdown.
The households, which included families and the elderly, also receive a pantry pack of essential daily items made up from food from Geelong Food Relief and Foodbank Victoria.
Since April, 1088 pantry packs have been distributed to households.
Mr Reeves said volunteers had spent more than 560 hours supporting the program, cooking, packing and delivering meals.
Norlane Community Initiatives is a placed based community-led organisation. It aims to care for people and place through programs and initiatives that seek to address specific community needs around social isolation, supporting families, food security, activating local leadership, health and well-being. The organisation’s mission is to cultivate and regenerate community and place in Norlane.
Monday Norlane Neighbourhood Meal is expected to return to the Spruhan Ave community centre next year, with plans to run it over several nights, subject to any COVID-19 restrictions.
Donations from local businesses for Norlane Community Initiatives’ pantry packs will be gratefully received. There is high demand for meat, fruit and vegetables and other hard to get items. Alternatively, the public can donate money to the program. For details visit www.norlaneci.org.au