AN AMBITIOUS project has been launched to feed Bolton’s poorest children with 25,000 meals over the summer holidays.
Inspired by the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, charity Urban Outreach is so concerned about children going hungry during the long summer break that it is mobilising an army of volunteers to make and distribute 1,000 picnic lunches around the borough every weekday.
Urban Outreach chief executive Dave Bagley said: “It is going to be the biggest picnic in the history of Bolton.”
The project, named BL14 Lunch, has been put together in just a few weeks as a response to concerns about what happens to the 9,000 children in Bolton who are eligible for free school meals once they are on holiday.
Urban Outreach believes this could be vital to many struggling Bolton parents.
Mr Bagley, who is also a qualified chef, said: “We have taken a bit of a risk on it. The operation is going to cost in the region of £25,000.
"We don’t really know what will happen. It is a bit of a fishing trip because no-one has done it before.
“It would be great if we found it wasn’t needed and we were over-reacting, but if we manage to get it right and 25,000 bellies are filled then it will be a very worthwhile exercise.”
The project has taken over the former Allied Carpet shop at Trinity Retail Park between 7.30am and 9am each week day when 30 volunteers will make halal, meat and vegetarian sandwiches.
These will then be put into bags along with Cheddars, an apple, a cereal bar and drink.
A chilled van will then distribute the meals to a dozen children’s centres around the borough.
Children will be able to walk in and request a meal. No proof of entitlement to free school meals will be needed.
Mr Bagley said: “The idea is that we not only get food to kids, but it is also about summer and it being a fun time.”
“This has never been done before and the encouragement, I feel, has come from Jesus feeding the 5,000,” added Mr Bagley, who believes the mass picnic can be Bolton’s own modern day miracle.”
Rt Rev Chris Edmondson, Bishop of Bolton, said: “It’s a brilliant, albeit challenging, initiative to find the £25,000.
“Normally children would be having free school meals and it’s an expression of Christian faith to make sure that kids are not going hungry during the summer holidays.
“My hope and prayer is that people of Bolton will be able to support it both financially or through practical help.
“I think it’s an example of being part of the Bolton family. If family really means family then I hope that people will say ‘I could make a contribution’.
“I’m totally enthusiastic and supportive of this.”
Urban Outreach also operates as a mobile food bank around Bolton, delivering food to the town’s most needy families.
Last year, food banks in Bolton fed more than 10,000 people just six months.
An average of 1,970 people used food bank vouchers every month.
Urban Outreach is still looking for donations towards the cost of the scheme and volunteers to help make the lunches.
Anyone who can help can call 01204 385848 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The locations of the free picnic lunches are:
- Horwich and Blackrod Childrens Centre, Horwich Library, Jones Street
- Westhoughton Childrens Centre, Clough Avenue
- The Orchards Children's Centre, Highfield Road
- Kearsley Childrens Centre, Springfield Road
- Great Lever Childrens Centre, Leonard Street
- Little Lever Children Centre, Herbert Street
- Bright Meadows Children Centre, Greenroyd Ave
- Oxford Grove Childrens Centre, Shepherd Cross St
- Crompton Children's Centre, Chalfont Street
- Tonge Childrens Centre, Starkie Road
- Oldham's Children Centre, Forfar Street
- Heaton and Lostock Neighbourhood Children’s Centre, New Hall Lane