Article: Preston Leader, Tuesday 16 May 2017
Story: Rebecca David

There was a time when Samantha Cunningham was on top of the world.

A model, a dancer and a title-winning bodybuilder, she was confident and successful but her life spiraled downwards with illness and depression.

Her relationship broke down, an infection led to the removal of part of her breast and she could no longer afford to run her dance studio.  "I lost my business, I lost my identity as a woman and I was on antipsychotic drugs, which made me gain a lot of weight," the Reservoir woman said.

While she was recovering from surgery, two electricity companies started charging her and she couldn't understand why her bills were so high.

At a desperately low point, she reached out to the Darebin Information Volunteer and Resource Service (DIVRS), which gave her food and helped sort out her accounts.  "They had such compassion and empathy for me," Ms Cunningham said, "I was able to receive fresh fruit and vegetables and bread."

Now a personal trainer and mental health volunteer, the 63-year-old emphasised the importance of a fresh food diet.   

"It is not only important for your physical health - it is for your mental health as well," she said."And by providing fresh food for people, DIVRS is saving lives.  Without them I don't know what I would have done."

DIVRS executive officer Freedom Preston said the food relief program helped about 4000 people a year.  A $6263 Feed Melbourne* Appeal grant helped them by a new freezer.  You can help organisations such as DIVRS by donating to the Feed Melbourne Appeal at feedmelbourne.org.au

Samantha Cunningham in the DIVRS vegetable garden.

PICTURE: Kylie Else

* Editors note: Feed Melbourne Grant received, provided for 700L chest freezer, Green House, Glass Jars and lids for preserving, volunteer tools (i.e. food handling, gloves, sanitizer) , butter and eggs.