Farmer Carly Noble and her husband started delivering hampers after the cornavirus pandemic arrived in Australia. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

Farmer Carly Noble and her husband started delivering hampers after the cornavirus pandemic arrived in Australia. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

When hope and kindness comes in a hamper

Every weekend, a small group of volunteers are dropping gift hampers off to country people doing it tough.

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Every weekend, a small group of volunteers will drop gift hampers off to country people doing it tough.

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Volunteers are fighting COVID-19's mental health fallout with gift hampers designed to bring a little cheer to those doing it tough.

Eight volunteers are criss-crossing central Victoria, including Bendigo, every weekend and helping east pandemic pressures, organiser Carly Noble said.

"Mental health doesn't judge or care what background you have, what nationality or whether you are rich or poor," she said.

Mrs Noble put the first hamper together this year after a fellow farmer "casually mentioned" he had contemplated suicide.

"I hadn't realised the stress that COVID-19 had put on the farm and their business until it came up in conversation," she said.

The farmer's export operations were on the brink as the fast-moving pandemic blocked his capacity to sell to their normal buyers.

Some of the hampers sent out to people. Picture: SUPPLIED

Some of the hampers sent out to people. Picture: SUPPLIED

"I just went and grabbed some stuff, some olives, chocolates, a heap of stuff, and chucked it in a box, slapped a sticker on it and posted it in the mail," Mrs Noble said.

"It was really well received and I mentioned it to someone, who mentioned it to someone else. It was never a deliberate program, but the hampers grew from two, to five ... now we do about 15 or 20 a week."

The farmer has since found new buyers for their product.

Mrs Noble wanted people going through hard times to know communities would rally around them because so many neighbours, friends and acquaintances had been through the same challenges.

"In the farming community, mental health might have a big part to play, but whether its pride or something else, we just don't talk enough about it," Mrs Noble said.

People can nominate someone they know for the hampers, which group The Agri-Food Network puts together in living rooms, using goods donated by businesses across the region.

They are then sent far and wide. Volunteers deliver them directly to people across central Victoria.

Others are posted around Victoria and as far away as Western Australia.

The group had sent out 219 by Thursday, with more expected over the weekend.

Volunteer Helen O'Donoghue, volunteer for Loddon and a Cousin Jack's employee. Picture: SUPPLIED

Volunteer Helen O'Donoghue, volunteer for Loddon and a Cousin Jack's employee. Picture: SUPPLIED

Another project the group is working on includes pay-it-forward campaigns at businesses in the Loddon Shire.

People visiting Inglewood's Cousin Jack's Bakehouse and the Tarnagulla Country Cafe can pay for a coffee for someone, whether that's a farmer, teacher emergency services worker or others in the community.

The details go up on a board ready for the right person to drop by and order a drink.

"Apart from bringing the community together as a united voice for mental health, particular businesses are seeing an increase in their revenues. That's helping support them through the pandemic," Mrs Noble said.

"That's really important because a lot of rural communities are really struggling. Everyone's trying to help but they are not sure where to do that. Shouting a coffee doesn't seem like much but it might just make someone else's day."

To learn more or to nominate someone for a hamper, email theagrifoodnetworkvic@gmail.com

If you or someone you know needs help or support, call Lifeline's 24/7 national telephone helpline service on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

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