The Potters’ garage has resembled the aisles of a supermarket for more than 30 years now.

Pastor Kevin Potter and his wife Robyn collect non-perishable food and toiletries to hand out in emergency relief parcels to people in need.

And this winter has been no different to others. After the Christmas rush for food parcels subsided, the Potters began their preparation for the coldest months of the year when need for emergency relief spikes.

The Epping couple help store food collected for Whittlesea Community Connections’ (WCC) emergency relief program.

The former Bacchus March pastor now calls the food bank his ‘ministry’. “I’m a pastor, and the boss told me to feed the people,” he said.

In the two months to June 30, 675 people came to WCC asking for emergency relief. WCC’s client services team leader, Peta Fualau, said almost 39 per cent had had to be turned away.

She said federal government cuts to emergency relief funding had left WCC 24 per cent worse off, financially, this year. “So we have had to change the level of assistance we can provide,” Ms Fualau said.

The organisation’s emergency relief network is asking for donations of non-perishable foods, such as pasta, sauces, lentils, rice, chickpeas, canned tomatoes, split peas, coffee and tea, and anything with a long shelf-life for its July food drive.

Pastor Potter also requested donations of toiletries and halal-certified foods. “We have a lot of refugees around here from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt and Afghanistan so the need for halal food grows,” he said.

Donations can be left at Mill Park MP Andrew Giles’ office, at Whittlesea Community Connections, Epping Plaza, or at Appret Café, Doreen.