17,000 meals handed out in bid to tackle holiday hunger (From Lancashire Telegraph)

A LUNCHBOX scheme set up to tackle holiday hunger is to return at Christmas after 17,000 meals were handed out during the summer holidays.

Hundreds of children received a free meal thanks to the work of volunteers who made sandwiches and packed lunchboxes to hand out at children’s centres across Blackburn with Darwen.

Launched for the first time this year, organiser Kat Zaman, of charity Kingdom Outreach, said they have plans to continue the scheme at Christmas.

She said: “It has been phenomenal. We had this vision and people have been working together to deliver it.”

She said housing association Proline offered to deliver the meals to the eight centres across the borough with parents and children invited to eat and socialise for a few hours over lunch.

Maria Nugent, early years geographical manager for children’s centres, said: “It has been really positive. As well as coming for the lunches parents are now signing up for other activities and courses or have started volunteering.

“A few have said their children’s behaviour has improved while the money they have saved means they have been able to take the kids out on trips during the holidays.

“Holiday hunger is an issue across the country. When free school meals stop for six weeks some parents really struggle to fund three meals a day.”

Cllr Maureen Bateson, executive member for children’s services at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “There’s also been a big benefit to the volunteers. It shows what you can do when you pull together. They have made a difference to so many lives.”

Leanne Foran-Booth, 23, started volunteering with her wife.

She said: “I suffer with anxiety and depression and had been unemployed for about six months.

“Since doing this it has given me more confidence and led to me getting a job.”

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