Charity hands out thousands of free meals to children over Easter break

Around 8,000 children are set to benefit from free meals over the school holiday as charity says demand for help has soared.

A charity which provides food and home essentials to families living in poverty has seen demand soar.

Dundee Bairns warned charities are being forced to “plug the gap” in tackling holiday hunger, with one in three of the city’s youngsters living below the poverty line.

The group’s Fun and Food programme ensures children who would normally receive a free school meal continue to do so during the holidays.

It is estimated a total of 8,000 children will have benefitted over the Easter break.

Chair David Dorward told STV News: “Dundee Bairns started this programme eight years ago and since we’ve started, we’ve done over half a million meals to children within the community in Dundee.”

Volunteer Susan Maxwell added: “It’s extremely vital to get these lunches out across the community of Dundee. The projects rely on us to provide these lunches and it shows with the increase each holiday period.”

Dozens of volunteers make meal deliveries every day to groups and organisations across the city.

Lunch packs being prepared at Rowantree Primary School

Rowantree Primary School is one of the distribution hubs, where family development worker Doug Millar hands out around 50 lunches each day.

Doug said: “I think since the cost of living crisis occurred about two years ago, we’ve noticed a big increase in demand for this kind of service.

“Dundee Bairns is a great partner for schools in Dundee, particularly Rowantree Primary School.

“They’re a great supporter to the community for family fun events as well.

“So, we’re really grateful to them for all the help that they provide.”

Dundee Bairns said one in three children in the city are living below the poverty line – a figure it is anticipated will rise.

At the charity’s warehouse, the Bairns at Home project is a lifeline for families in need.

It has so far distributed more than 60,000 items, supporting more than 6,000 children.

Here volunteers pack essential items such as nappies, toothpaste, and toilet roll, even providing school bags, shoes and jackets.

Genna Millar, from the charity, said: “We’re supported by Big Hoose Fife. We have a referral pool of around 55 referrers now. We are really hoping to get that up to 350 to properly serve the needs of Dundee.

“There needs to be a big change from somewhere at some time.

“The third sector can’t keep plugging the gap the way that we’re plugging the gap, is the long and short of it.”

Genna said the Dundee Bairns team is continuously growing, reflecting the rise in demand and the pleas for help.

The charity plans to expand its home essentials project in the coming months.

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