VOLUNTEERS handed out an astounding 33,700 free packed lunches to needy youngsters during the school holidays.

Bolton charity Urban Outreach smashed its own record — dishing out more than 1,000 meals a day compared to 600 last summer when the organisation launched its Bolton Lunches project.

Children in disadvantaged areas were provided with a roll, a drink, a savoury snack, a sweet snack and a piece of fruit through the BL15 Bolton Lunches scheme.

Chief executive Dave Bagley said: "It was a huge success for a lot of different reasons.

"There were 19 different collection points across the borough where we knew there were areas of deprivation.

"We didn't ask anyone for proof of receipt of free school meals but by the location of the collection points we were assured to target the children we wanted to target.

"This had nothing to do with food banks. Parents didn't have to present a food voucher or anything.

"We made sure there was no embarrassment and that was absolutely critical.

"The people in the community were the ones serving the food and a number of centres used the children collecting the lunch as an opportunity to get them to do art and other activities.

"It was made to be fun and there wasn't any stigma."

A total of 33,747 packed lunches were produced and given out.

The scheme ensured boys and girls eligible for free school meals could continue to eat nutritiously away from the classroom during the August break.

Each day, ham, cheese and tuna rolls were freshly made and the lunches packed by between 30 and 40 volunteers from a pool of 300 who signed up to help — many after reading about the scheme in The Bolton News.

They worked out of the former Allied Carpets store in Trinity Retail Park. The store was lent to the charity to use as a central distribution centre for six weeks.

Mr Bagley said: "The feedback from the parents is that they were really grateful the children could get out and have lunch in a safe environment.

"The benefit went directly to the children."

Mr Bagley said the lunch scheme received a boost with the donation of slices of the the centrepiece 7ft elephant cake baked to mark the 10th Bolton Food and Drink Festival.

BL15 Bolton Lunches was part-funded by £5,000 the charity won from the Aviva Community Fund.

The charity also received community donations as well money from Santander and Asda and support from Bolton Council.

The congregation of St Thomas of Canterbury Church in Lonsdale Road, Heaton, contributed £1,000 to help cover costs.

Canon William Byrne said: "We have a number of elderly parishioners and most people work so they are not able to to help in a practical manner and so it was decided in that case to pay for a day's worth of lunches.

"There is not much material need in the area in which the church is situated and very simply we try to contribute to what others are doing.

"We totally support what Urban Outreach is doing."

Urban Outreach is one of Bolton Mayor Cllr Carole Swarbrick's chosen charities for her mayoral year.