FUNDING for a Bendigo food support hub will bring life back into one of the CBD's vacant industrial buildings.
Bendigo Foodshare will move into part of the former ice works on Garsed Street, with plans to start establishing the space as a food support hub as soon as June.
A $400,000 state government grant has generated the momentum the project needed.
Bendigo Foodshare chair Cathie Steele said a food support hub had been in the works for nearly five years.
She said Bendigo Foodshare had known it would need to move to a bigger premises at some stage.
But the COVID-19 pandemic had seen Bendigo Foodshare's activities overflow from the warehouse into the car park at its Long Gully premises.
Organisations in Bendigo have also been donating storage space to help Bendigo Foodshare accommodate for the increased demand for food relief in the region.
Demand for food relief has risen by about 40 per cent since the start of the pandemic.
Ms Cathie Steele said the organisation was averaging three or four contacts a week from people who were new to food relief services and did not know where to turn for help.
She expected demand to keep rising as supports like JobSeeker and JobKeeper tapered off.
From the archives: Bendigo food hub plan on the backburner
The $400,000 grant will only cover part of the cost of fitting out the new food support hub, which is expected to amount to $1.2 million.
Bendigo Foodshare plans to launch a fundraising campaign to cover the rest of the sum.
"We're really excited by the support we've already had in getting the project where it's at," Bendigo Foodshare manager Bridget Bentley said.
She believed the project had the potential to reactivate the area in a very positive way.
The old ice works and the former Gillies Pie Factory have been vacant for some time, during which they have been the target of some antisocial behaviour.
Bendigo Foodshare will have use of part of the ice works complex for 15 years, for a nominal rent.
Y2 Architecture is providing pro-bono services to help make the project happen.
The site needs storage spaces suitable for a variety of foods, from dry to fresh and frozen. It also needs meeting spaces, amenities and offices.
Work on the food support hub will be underway as soon as planning processes allow, with the project to be completed in two stages.
"The aim is to get through stage one, using the grant money, by the end of June," Ms Steele said.
"We are moving very fast, and the government wants it to move very fast."
Bendigo's food support hub was one of five to share in the government's $3.5-million funding announcement on Wednesday.
Bendigo Foodshare received almost $400,000 towards the hub's operating costs, in addition to the funding for capital works.
All five regional Victorian food support hubs are due for completion by 2022.
"We'll all be working together to improve the system... particularly for country Victorians," Ms Steele said.