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Shepparton community lunch much more than food

The Salvation Army hall at the corner of Nixon St and Corio St has a community lunch every Wednesday.

ESTELLE GRIEPINK May 23, 2014 3:53am

There is a place Shepparton people can go when they are feeling cold, hungry or just in need of some company.

It is warm, inviting and filled with the delicious aromas of home-cooked foods, such as meatballs and mashed potatoes.

For a gold coin donation, you can sidle up to a friendly face at one of the many communal tables and enjoy a hot lunch.

You will find long-time volunteers eating with elderly residents, or fresh-faced teenagers serving food to middle-aged social workers.

It does not matter what your situation is — anyone who drops in to the hall is made to feel right at home.

It is not hard to understand why the community lunch has become so popular.

Some weeks, as many as 60 people share a meal inside the Shepparton hall. A recent nationwide Salvation Army survey found one in four Australians were unable to afford a substantial meal at least once a day.

Thirty-eight per cent of the people surveyed said they did not have regular social contact with people, leading to a feeling of isolation and loneliness.

Salvation Army Shepparton Lieutenant Andrew Stringer said the community lunch was about so much more than food.

He said it gave many people the opportunity to interact with others in an otherwise lonely week.

Some of the diners did not have a mobile phone or internet connection.

‘‘The lunch basically gives people a family, because there are a lot of lonely people in our community who don’t have a social network,’’ he said.

‘‘Everyone is always welcome.’’

The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Appeal volunteers will be out and about in Shepparton this weekend, collecting money for people in need. Please give generously.

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