Sometimes it's hard to see someone is struggling beneath the surface but a group from the Northern Illawarra is using food to brighten people's days.
For the Love Of (FLO) was born from a desire by four women to be a force of positive change in the community and has manifested into free regular cooking workshops - in person and now online - that spread love on so many levels.
"All of us know people who live on our street that need a helping hand for whatever reason, maybe they've just had someone pass away or maybe they're a single parent ... a free meal is just an easy way to help," spokeswoman Kirsten Hitchins said
"Everyone wants to help other people but it's hard to know how, so it's just like a practical thing. Cooking a meal for someone is super easy and it might save their life in some circumstances or at the very least bring a smile to their face."
The FLO cooking classes were utilising a commercial kitchen at Austinmer Anglican Church while teaching people to create budget friendly meals, creating memories and moments through human connection and the leftovers were being given to people who could use a hand.
After several months of operating in-person classes, the love has moved to regular Friday Facebook Live sessions, still with the same principals in mind.
Mrs Hitchins said FLO was more important than ever now knowing the class might be someone's only social interaction that day.
"[The northern Illawarra] seems to be a rich area, but many people have lived here for a very long time and could still be thrown into financial hardship even if their house was worth a lot of money," she said.
"We do the cooking workshops with the idea of helping people connect with each other and that's good for mental health, but also for a potential educational opportunity on how to cook on a budget, and then asking people to nominate people in their street or in their area that may benefit from a free meal."
In 2020, the FLO founders - Mrs Hitchins, Wendy Potts, Liz McCoy and Karen Charlton - were brainstorming ways they could care for community at the same time their church was undertaking research into the dire needs of the community.
Austinmer Anglican Church pastor Nathan Sandon said their research highlighted loneliness and mental health, along with a struggle to meet basic needs such as food were huge issues - derivatives of the pandemic - and so FLO was born.
"When lockdown 2.0 happened [the FLO team] were quite determined to not just shutdown straight away," Rev Sandon said. "[Moving online] speaks to their commitment and their desire to continue in the face of adversity ... and it suddenly opens it up to many more people that otherwise wouldn't have heard of it."
For more information, visit their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/fortheloveofaustinmer
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.