LEANNE Jennings' life is consumed by providing for the Bairnsdale community.
At 5am, most of us in winter, especially are tucked up in bed.
That's about the time Leanne Jennings will have finished her morning's read and be heading out to feed her horses.
Come daylight, she's relishing the crisp morning atop her steed.
The freedom and joy of this nurtures her for the day ahead.
By 7.15am most week days, she's out the door of her ageing parents' home on the family's 263ha farm, and off to the local supermarket to rescue food that otherwise might be thrown out.
Next stop is the Bairnsdale Neighbourhood House, where, for 17 years, she has run everything from first-aid courses to kindergarten, after-school care and disability programs.
The mother of three grown children will then assess her food cache, dig out recipes and prepare to brief the day's small army of volunteer cooks who craft meals from whatever is on hand.
The pot stirrers include some on Centrelink benefits aged over 55 who choose volunteering over job-seeking, some on work-for-the-dole schemes, others on casual and seasonal work filling in down time and those who volunteer without any prompting.
Sometimes they make beef casserole, sometimes chicken stroganoff, and often turkey dishes, thanks to food from a nearby turkey farm.
By afternoon, the cooked meals are cooled, packed, labelled, dated and put into the freezer, ready for distributing to those who come seeking food in tough times.
What began years ago as an modest operation providing canned fruit and sugary biscuits is now in demand.
"It started out very small," says Leanne, 50. "It was a limited service handed over by a church.
"We've gone from getting one to two people coming in once a month, to one to two people coming in once a week, to one to two people a day. Now we are averaging about five a day."
Now, the service comprises healthy food hampers with cooked meals, fresh fruit and more.
"If people are needing food, it's not much good giving them just canned fruit and crappy biscuits," Leanne says.
Demand began to explode in 2006, when rents rose rapidly. She reassures me that "real need" prompted the spike in demand.
People might be able to cope with everyday bills such as power and water, but a car breakdown or unexpected medical expenses can dish up financial curve balls.
That's when residents start coming to the neighbourhood houses. There are two in Bairnsdale.
Leanne says she has seen few people comfortable with asking for food handouts.
"They feel bad about it," she says. "I can just tell from their body language."
When I learnt that families are allowed only one hamper a month and therefore don't become dependent on the service, I began to grasp the concept.
Still, while the demand side suggests a grim story, the provision side is heartwarming.
Leanne says the cooking and meal preparation creates a professional environment that has provided enough encouragement to lift at least one volunteer out of the poverty cycle.
The neighbourhood house cooks also make meals for the community cafe on Friday and Saturday nights.
"That's not necessarily for people who can't afford to buy food," she says.
"It's about socialising. There isn't a lot of inexpensive entertainment for people."
Leanne is paid for 38 hours a week and volunteers another 15.
"It makes me feel so good to come and do it. I have some terrible situations I have to deal with, and it can get you down, but I have the farm and my horses."