Preston Rotary’s COVID-19 Community Impact  

Preston Rotary actively supports the community outreach of Bridge Darebin (BD) and Reservoir Neighbourhood House (RNH), situated in Melbourne’s Northern suburbs.

Since March, Bridge Darebin and Reservoir Neighbourhood House have not been able to safely deliver their usual weekly food and social support services under the COVID-19 restrictions. Bridge Darebin normally runs a free weekly Friday lunch and Sunday dinner, with up to 80 attendees for each meal who also receive a second meal and some grocery items to take home.  Reservoir Neighbourhood House provide a daily community pantry with free grocery items and breads, monthly community lunches, weekly soup days and grocery support to local public housing estates via Foodbank.

Although both Houses were providing food relief, the introduction of COVID-19 meant community need for food support became next-level virtually overnight. At RNH, Angie Davidson, Executive Officer, opened her grocery giveaway the week of March 16th to a line of people stretching up the street. Numbers she had never experienced before, and social distancing was definitely not the first thing on their minds. Angie had over 150 people in need, without the building space and staff numbers to manage this demand.

Rotary Club of Preston were instrumental in supporting the very first community food relief initiative with Reservoir Neighbourhood House in the first week of lockdown. Together, they were able to support the sourcing and delivery of 200 meals within four days. The following week the program was extended to increase the outreach to vulnerable community members living in public housing estates in East Reservoir.

It was becoming extremely difficult to source bulk foods and keep social distancing measures in place whilst the need for more support for community kept growing. The neighbouring organisation Bridge Darebin assisted through their bulk foods store to support the program. Within a matter of days, donations had transformed their front community hall into a packing hub. In a remarkably short period of time both Neighbourhood Houses formed the Darebin Neighbourhood Houses food relief response for COVID-19.

With support from Preston Rotary and the Donations In Kind truck, collections from FareShare and Foodbank grew. 


By the beginning of April both Neighbourhood houses had distributed: 

  • 4,040 FareShare two-person meals 
  • 3,300 grocery bags (1,100 deliveries) 
  • 2 pallets of fruit and veg and 2 pallets of dairy products 
  • 400 hygiene packs 
  • Supporting 13 welfare/community organisations to access between 20 – 80 meals each week for their communities. 

From mid-May, the meals were estimated at 1400 per week. So as the need for food relief grew, Preston Rotary continued to support the Darebin wide program. Hygiene packs sourced from Pinchapoo have been greatly appreciated, along with donated fresh bread.  The Darebin Neighbourhood Houses have been resourceful in seeking other much needed donations, such as Halal meals, baby goods and nappies.

Rotarian Ruth McCall notes “As a relatively new Rotarian, I am continually inspired by my club’s readiness to assist in providing much needed relief to a vulnerable community. The response to the COVID-19 Pandemic rapidly enacted by Reservoir Neighbourhood House, and Bridge Darebin partnerships demonstrate a passionate commitment to their communities.”


The need for food relief assistance will continue long after COVID-19 lockdowns have been lifted. A fundraising campaign has been set up by Bridge Darebin and Reservoir Neighbourhood House to support the continuation and longevity of food relief in Darebin for as long as is possible. Whilst this support continues, so will the program.   

The program has attracted media articles, video diaries and social media posts;