A program getting homeless young people into Wangaratta cafes is extending to Benalla thanks to funding from the Geoff and Helen Handbury Foundation.
North East Support and Action for Youth (NESAY) began the Fair Feed project in 2017 with the RE Ross Trust and the Central Hume Primary Care Partnership.
Project worker Melissa Van Bergen said using a Fair Feed card, youth could provide $3 and receive a meal valued up to $15.
"At the end of the month NESAY refunds the difference," she said.
"We try to make sure it's subtle and that the young people feel comfortable and welcomed in the cafe."
In its first year, 143 meals were provided across six cafes.
Owen Godenzi, general Manager of 3NE and EDGE FM, learned about the program at the end of 2017.
"It's great for them to be able to sit down to have a meal like everyone else," he said.
"We wanted to see it be developed in Benalla as well.
"Geoff and Helen Handbury were previous owners of ACE Radio and they have a foundation to help out communities throughout Victoria; through the foundation we've been able to donate funds to NESAY."
NESAY is now in talks with local groups and cafes about what the program would look like in Benalla, drawing from what they've learned from the Wangaratta program.
Chief executive Leah Waring said it gave youth a more inclusive option compared to frozen meals or seeking help from a food relief provider.
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"We found if we gave them the card with a list of cafes, they won't use it as much," she said.
"The success has been that their worker or a family member goes with them, they have a meal in the cafe together, and the cards get used.
"For some of the young people involved with Fair Feed, it was the first time they'd eaten a cafe in town.
News of the program's expansion is even more welcome today, on Youth Homelessness Matters Day.
"When you're talking about youth homelessness, people don't know it's necessarily here because it's not as visible as what it is in the CBD of Melbourne," Ms Waring said.
"There is a whole lot of data that shows youth homelessness hasn't reduced in 10 years.
"Fair Feed enables the community to do something to show they care about young people in the town - over the years, we haven't enabled that as well as we could have.
"It's about providing safety, security and food in your belly, but also community inclusion."
In 2018, NESAY supported 579 young people and their families across the local government areas of Wangaratta, Alpine, Benalla, and Mansfield, and parts of Indigo and Moira.