MORE than 50,000 lunches were provided to children across Bolton over the summer thanks to a team of hard working volunteers.

The BL19 Packed Lunch Initiative, run by Bolton charity Urban Outreach, feeds children who would typically get free school meals while they are on their summer holidays.

Now in its fifth year, the scheme has provided a huge 53,331 lunches to youngsters over the last six weeks, made with the help of volunteers to make the sandwiches and local businesses to help with distribution.

This year's efforts have beaten that of last year's, which stood at 52,044 meals.

Urban Outreach founder Dave Bagley says he watched the community come together once again to help out those most in need: "It's a phenomenon and it's a massive success.

"It's enabling people to do things that the community is there for and it means children will get a lunch, which is the main reason for doing it.

"We had over 200 volunteers who turned up to help us make the sandwiches and lots of young people from the National Citizen Service over the six weeks — they were a brilliant group and they had great energy.

"The number of businesses that want to get involved is amazing. People will make sandwiches for 2,000 children and then start work. Seddons and U-Drive have provided us with vans."

The lunch initiative already runs across the borough, with sites in Breightmet, Farnworth, Horwich and Halliwell.

But Mr Bagley says the charity is always aiming to expand into places that need help. Next year, Urban Outreach is hoping to run the project in Leverhulme.

He said: "It's just grown over time. We look at different areas in the town and look at deprivation. We're always looking to take on new areas so we can reach more of those young people who will benefit.

Over the coming weeks, Urban Outreach will be harvesting as much as eight tonnes of food and will then get to work making Christmas hampers.