The Lithgow community has been through drought, intense bushfires and now COVID-19.
It's safe to say some might be doing it tough and Lithgow Information Neighbourhood Centre (LINC) is doing their part to relieve the stress that comes with these challenging times.
LINC has stepped up to support the community through a 'LINC Pantry' expansion also known as the 'Second Bite' program.
LINC community hub manager Leanne Walding said the program helps to bring food rescue support to people in need.
"This initiative has created a safe nurturing place where we not only distribute food but we grow conversations and a sense of belonging," she said.
The program is run with the help of local partners Coles, Food Rescue, ALDI, Woolworths, Food Rescue Central West, Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre, Hawkesbury Outreach Community Services, Food Pantry - Anglicare, Lithgow City Council and Lithgow Place Plan.
Ms Walding said Second Bite has been operational since 2017 thanks to a partnership with Coles who have continued to donate fresh produce and bread three times a week.
The food pantry has been expanded with new partners and grants from Lithgow Place Plan and Lithgow City Council.
"This initiative has also created the opportunity to expand our volunteer team and create a sense of community connectedness," Ms Walding said.
She said LINC had sacrificed their meeting room to allow for the expansion.
"With the support of Food Rescue Central West we have secured a commercial size refrigerator, and freezer allowing us to be one of the only local food rescue services to provide access to frozen items including meat and fresh produce," she said.
The LINC Food Pantry operates every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 12.30pm and have been delivering fortnightly on Wednesdays to Bowenfels during Covid-19, supported by Firefly.
"We have both LINC employees and volunteers who pick up the food, sort and prepare hampers for distribution," Ms Walding said
She said the food rescue distribution at LINC was bread, produce and free items, which range from canned goods, breakfast product, treats and personal hygiene items.
"Outside of these donations, which are provided free, we have established a table of mutual exchange where people purchase three items for $5 on Monday or $2 items on Wednesday which is the communities way of ensuring our sustainability."
Ms Walding said all members of the community are welcome to LINC's Food Pantry.
"We collect names and contact details for COVID Training and to make calls should our distribution change.
"We have ensured equity in distribution through our number system and will limit items to create a sense of fairness," she said.
Ms Walding hoped to open the Bowenfels Community Hub as a distribution point by October, pending Covid restrictions.
She said during the pandemic, as an essential service LINC remained active behind closed doors.
"The LINC team came together to continue our Second Bite program and reached out to create new partnerships allowing us to provide the delivery of hampers to those isolated through Covid and minimise contact through outdoor distribution at allocated times," she said.
"We thought outside the box to continue our food rescue to ensure there was no disruption to this much needed community support service."
LINC will soon commence Emergency Relief appointments supported by the Winmalee Neighbourhood Centre.
They are also actively seeking volunteers to support Second Bite and LINC Pantry. To get involved contact Leanne at LINC on 6352 2077.
Donations or contributions to the program are also welcomed.