THE region's most vulnerable have continued to receive nutritious and ready-to-go meals, thanks to a partnership between Bendigo Foodshare and StreetSmart Australia.
Bendigo Foodshare manager Bridget Bentley said the SmartMeals program also referred to as Cafes for Covid has been going for over 12 months now.
She said over the time, they had made and distributed over 12,500 meals to the community and supported about 30 local hospitality businesses through that time.
"It has been really important to be able to run this program and to have such a strong relationship with StreetSmart Australia," she said.
"We have been able to get these nutritious, tasty meals out to the community."
The SmartMeals program was launched on March 30 by StreetSmart Australia.
A pilot program at the time, chief executive Adam Robinson said he wanted to create a program that utilized the unused capacity of local hospitality services devastated by the pandemic.
He wanted to assist local businesses to provide meals for local vulnerable residents and community groups.
Homelessness and poverty can be often looked at as a citywide problem but we know it's a regional problem as well.StreetSmart Australia chief executive Adam Robinson
Originally just launching the program in Melbourne, Mr Robinson said the program eventually expanded into regional communities.
By the end of the year, there were over 70 partnerships with restaurants, cafes and charities.
"We were really keen to extend it and support regional areas and that has always been a main focus at StreetSmart," he said.
"Homelessness and poverty can be often looked at as a citywide problem but we know it's a regional problem as well.
"We made contact with Bendigo Foodshare and then we really focused on using those social enterprises with them.
"We have a strong relationship with Bendigo Foodshare and they are doing a fantastic job there."
At Bendigo Foodshare, they now have been creating these ready-to-go meals for over a year thanks to the funding from StreetSmart.
"You can give these meals to a family, a single person, many people because they are a single serve, they have a variety of meals and they can be easily heated," she said.
"It's just a wonderful program that we have been able to continue only with the funding from StreetSmart."
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