By Justin Flynn
No questions, no agendas.
The motto of Feed Me Bellarine is simple, but yet it perfectly describes how local duo Lana Purcell and Anthony Woodbury feel about their creation.
Lana, owner of Belly Bowls and Bellarine Catering, saw how much food she was throwing out at the end of each day.
She started to package it up and distribute it to people in need.
She met Anthony, a chef, and the two have since formed something that is becoming a local juggernaut.
Feed Me Bellarine turns leftover food into nutritious meals and delivers to people in need across the Bellarine Peninsula.
The two complement each other almost perfectly.
“I met Anthony almost two months ago and we feel that we have a very mutual social responsibility,” Lana says.
“He came from quite a hard background and he is connected to dangerous and unsafe parts of the community down here which has always been very hidden from me.
“I’m connected to the hidden mothers and families who are feeling considerable pain or are going through mental health issues or alcohol addiction or financial burden so between the two of us we took leftovers from both of our stores and we packaged it up.
“The first night we put it out as ‘no questions, no agendas’ and we did 50 dinners at Church by the Bay in Portarlington as a pickup point and people just came.
“That inspired us to take it very seriously and it’s snowballed very quickly.”
For Anthony, who grew up in a housing commission area in Tamworth, the rough side of life is not foreign to him.
But this enables him to connect with people who are in the same situation as he once was.
“I grew up in an area that was rough. It was fight or flight. You either leave or you fight to stay,” he says.
“I’ve been there, I’ve lived in them. I know how to talk to them and I know how to approach them.
“I’ve been through it and seen it all and had to thrive in that situation so for me to go there (to commission flats in St Leonards), it’s nothing off my back.
“I was there the other week and there were police and ambos and I just walked through it comfortably like there was nothing happening. It doesn’t affect me at all.
“It brings back memories sometimes.”
Anthony goes home and writes down what happens in every detail and sends it to Lana, who then publishes it on the Facebook site.
“I flood her with all my thoughts sometimes,” Anthony says.
People often think of the Bellarine as a well-off area with few social problems, but the reality is quite different.
“Down here no one wants to talk about it because of the attractions and tourism. It’s hidden away but it’s very much there,” Anthony says.
“Geelong has a good set up to deal with Geelong but since we started, we realise how much the Bellarine has a problem,” says Lana.
Feed Me Bellarine has provided more than 300 meals to those in need.
And recipients don’t need to be poor or disadvantaged, either.
“Mum’s been in a car accident and there are kids at home and the older daughter reaches out and needs help,” Lana says.
“That’s why there are no questions, no agendas, if someone asks for help, we’ll do it.”
But that doesn’t mean some haven’t tried to take advantage.
“We always go into it with no questions and no agendas, so we will keep delivering and keep supplying and keep an open conversation with everyone,” says Lana.
“There are a few we have questioned and they have dropped off because we realised they have taken advantage, but we will never put that judgement on anyone initially.”
Other businesses, such as Rolling Pin and Ronnie’z, have become involved and several hobby farms donate vegetables. Last week someone walked in and handed over $200 cash.
When the Voice spoke to Lana and Anthony, a crate of pies, quiches, sandwiches, rolls and even a birthday cake, had been delivered from Rolling Pin still warm and ready for distribution on a cold Friday night.
Feed Me Bellarine is calling on businesses to get involved.
“It can be embarrassing the amount of food and waste that is coming out of our cafes, restaurants and wineries so them reaching out to us would be great because we can use it to help the community,” Lana says.
“One of our volunteers can come and pick it up. They don’t have to do anything really.”
There are around 40 volunteers performing a range of tasks, such as admin, cooking, delivery and legal advice.
Feed Me Bellarine is non-government or church related, which Lana says can be an advantage.
“We don’t have an agenda,” she says.
“We don’t expect anything back. If you want help, you ask and that’s it.”
Feed Me Bellarine helps 20 to 40 families per week, but that number is expected to increase.
Lara and Anthony are both married with children, work more than full-time hours at their regular jobs and then pour in countless hours to Feed Me Bellarine.
More volunteers are needed, but they insist it is their obligation to do this.
“It’s something we have to do,” Lana says.
“It’s getting very overwhelming but there are amazing people who have put their hands up. We need more though.
“We have the ability to do it. We are in the hospitality industry and we see this wastage and when you see what’s going to end up in the bin you realise you need to do something about it.
“There are people who really need it. We just have to do it.”
To help, contact Feed Me Bellarine’s Facebook page.