THE number of people accessing food programs in Ararat and the wider Wimmera has increased amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ararat Neighbourhood House manager Lou Makin said the house was still running its food bank program, Second Bite, to meet the need.
Second Bite provides food, free of charge, to those who may otherwise struggle to feed their families and themselves.
Staff and volunteers say they have seen a recent spike in people accessing Second Bite.
"We've had a couple of contacts today (Tuesday) from people who have not accessed it before so it's good the word is getting out," she said. "Most people who haven't ever had to access food relief aren't aware of what's out there and they're in a situation where they're not used to asking for help."
Ms Makin said the Neighbourhood House had put in an appointment system to limit contact among attendees.
"It's running 12pm-2pm Tuesdays to Fridays by appointment only," she said.
"The reason for that is that we need to minimize the risk of transmission. Most people don't have the disease but just in case someone does come in that has been in contact with someone who does have it, we need to space appointments out for people's safety.
"They may not even know they have it.
"It's just so easy to pick it up unknowingly, and that's why we've put in place appointment times, because we want to minimise the risk of transmission and we take that responsibility seriously."
Ms Makin encouraged anyone who was experiencing difficulty for any reason to contact the Neighbourhood House and make an appointment.
She also said the access requirements had been loosened in order to capture a wider range of people who may be in need.
"We have relaxed requirements for accessing staple items and ask that people experiencing difficulties, please do make contact, as we are able to, and want to provide assistance where it's needed," Ms Makin said.
"I really want people to feel they can ring or message, us and while we may not answer the phone, I will get back to them and make appointments for them to come and access food. This is what we're here for."
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