The Bell Bardia Community Meal Program was set up in 2011 and is jointly run by Our Lady of Mercy College, Heidelberg, the Exodus Community and Olympic Adult Education.
Approximately 90-100 meals are distributed on Wednesday evenings each week. Students and staff of OLMC prepare the meal at the OAE kitchen and transport it for distribution to 3 drop off points in West Heidelberg, home to many families each facing different challenges. The residents who partake of the meal are often welfare dependent, many suffer the isolation of mental illness, some suffer with substance abuse, unemployment is high, and some are refugee families trying to make their way. Residents need to register each week to receive a meal, or they are referred by a welfare agency. The program has been partly funded by the Heidelberg Bendigo Bank since its beginning and other funds are raised by the students of OLMC.
The main objective of the program is to provide a nutritious meal that can be enjoyed as a family. It also provides an opportunity for residents to come together at the drop off points and connect with others including the students. The volunteers also benefit as they are given the opportunity to interact with those that are doing it tough and to realise that even the little bit that they do can make a difference.