THE Hilltop Community Meal hangs in the balance after the volunteer head chef left suddenly last week.
Organisers of the lunch, which provides a free meal and hospitality for more than 70 people in need, are desperate to find a replacement cook to ensure the weekly lunch can continue.
Organisers say they are determined to recruit someone as soon as possible.
Co-ordinator Deborah Gates said they weren't searching for an experienced chef - just someone with cooking skills who was willing to help.
"This is ultimately a community-run program for the community so we're just looking for good cooks who can cook for a large volume of people," she said.
"We cook healthy meals and the role will involve organising and developing menus and preparing food.
"People can do as little or as much as they like and it's a very well-supported role with lots of kitchen hands helping out."
Ultimately organisers hope to find several volunteers who can be rostered on a rotating basis.
"We don't want to be left in this position again," Ms Gates said.
"I don't have the cooking skills to help this Wednesday coming so it'll be a cold lunch with something that doesn't require cooking."
Despite the hurdle, Ms Gates has every confidence the vital program, run every Wednesday at the Gravel Hill Salvation Army cafe, would continue to thrive.
The joint initiative between the Salvation Army and Bendigo Baptist and Connect churches is only in its third month but numbers have more than tripled since week one.
"This is an important program that meets the practical need of food, but also connects people with others to alleviate isolation and build relationships," she said.
"It's all well and good to start something like this and pull out but we're determined to keep going even when the going gets tough."
To volunteer call Deborah Gates on 0409 142 777.