Burnley and Pendle food heroes unite to ensure children don't go hungry over school holidays
Thousands of meals have been delivered to vulnerable families on the first few days of half term - and the figure is rising continuously.
Restaurants, cafes, local organisations and generous members of the public in Burnley and Pendle have rallied behind footballer Marcus Rashford's campaign to end child poverty after MPs rejected extending free school meals over half term.
Since then, the real heroes of the community have set up fundraising pages and dozens of people from a range of organisations in Burnley and Pendle have stepped forward to volunteer by cooking and distributing thousands of free meals in order to keep struggling families fed during the school holidays.
As news broke of Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford's campaign, two friends and East Lancashire business people joined forces to launch Holiday Hunger East Lancashire.
Annette Weekes, managing director of PDS Engineering, Nelson, along with former Young Lancastrian of the Year Paul White, launched the scheme, which has so far seen almost 9,000 lunch meals provided to any child in East Lancashire who needed them.
Speaking of the initiative, Annette said: "From deciding to do this on Friday and working non-stop all weekend to now seeing all those meals go out, it's just brilliant. We have tried to support as many struggling young people as possible. On Monday, 1,080 meals were given out to children in Burnley alone, yesterday (Tuesday), the number rose to 3,000. By the end of the week, we will have cooked, packed and distributed more than 15,000 meals to hungry kids.
"We have had a team of volunteers preparing and packaging the food in the kitchens at Colne Primet Academy. The support and offers of help from individuals and businesses has been incredible. I cannot thank people enough who have donated and who have helped. And the feedback we have received from the recipients has been so humbling."
Meanwhile, Burnley resident Andrew Greaves is among those who rallied to feed hungry children. He and his friend, Tobias Mackie, also set up a fundraising page and have raised thousands of pounds, which have since been distributed to local charities such as Charter House, Burnley, Snowdrop Duala and Church on the Street Ministry, Burnley, who have kept thousands of kids in East Lancashire fed during half term.
Andrew said: "We've been absolutely overwhelmed by the support we've received. It was literally just something we did on a whim to try and make a little bit of difference. The businesses who donated are struggling themselves, but have decided that they can't see children go hungry. I cannot thank my friend Tobias Mackie and Coun. Afrasiab Anwar enough for being the real drivers behind this."
In addition, Charter House Resource Centre, Burnley, have been providing five day kids lunch packs and have already supplied over 30,000 meals to vulnerable people in Burnley and Padiham since the pandemic began.
Here is a list of the generous businesses and organisations that have raced to the rescue and kept children fed this half-term:
Usha Restaurant, Rossendale Road, Burnley
RJD Associates in Padiham
Harry's Chop Shop
Finishing Touches Flooring
Park Lane Barbers in Padiham
Sandwich City, Burnley
Burnley Bees Padiwacks
Nelson Community Mosque
Ava Rose Hamilton Bridal Boutique, Colne
Tuckin at Varleys in Harle Syke
Kibble Bank Onestop, Burnley,
Shagor Tandoori Takeway
Ightenhill Fish Bar
Tubbs of Colne
Birchall Food Service
Bobs Butchers Padiham
Tasty Bites Padiham
Cartmels Fruit and Veg
Aroma Asian Restaurant