Bowl of Plenty community lunch

Andrew Stockley and Edward Bourke meeting up for lunch, which on this day was a vegetable pasta bake with salad, followed by plum cake or chocolate and coconut slice
Andrew Stockley and Edward Bourke meeting up for lunch, which on this day was a vegetable pasta bake with salad, followed by plum cake or chocolate and coconut slice

Since August, the Bellingen Neighbourhood Centre has been offering free, sit-down hot lunches twice a month.

BNC coordinator May Smith said the Bowl of Plenty initiative was working well, with delicious food being professionally prepared by Mitch Grady and Monica Sala and a team of volunteers helping with serving and chatting to those who come in.

But there's plenty of room for more diners to come and share a sociable lunch, May said.

"Normally we serve 20 to 25 people," she said. "The most we've ever had is 37. We cook enough for 40 to 50 and whatever is left becomes a frozen meal."

Volunteer meals server Kerry Child

Volunteer meals server Kerry Child

May expects demand will pick up again during winter, when the prospect of a hot meal is most appealing.

Andrew Stockley, who was one of the people who came up with the idea of having free community lunches, makes a point of coming along regularly to eat and chat.

"I'm a people person," he said. "I like the social side of it, and I like people feeling connected rather than isolated."

The hot lunches are on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, from 11am to 1pm in the Senior Citizens Room next to the Bellingen Neighbourhood Centre.

There's always a vegetarian option and cake, tea and coffee available as well.

Frozen meals are available as takeaways from the BNC Monday to Friday, 9.30am-3.30pm.