Beds, Herts & Bucks

Coronavirus: Bedford charity sees surge in demand for packed lunches

Two families
Image caption Lisa Adie (right) collected the packed lunch along with her friend Pippa Shrimpton and made a day of it by going to the park to eat it

A charity for families has seen a surge in parents needing free lunches for their children during the school holidays.

Bedford-based charity Faces (Family and Children's Early-help Services) is expecting to hand out 3,000 lunchboxes, compared to 1,000 last year.

It said it was supporting people during the coronavirus pandemic who have "never asked for help before".

Lisa Adie said she had been struggling since her partner was furloughed.

"I don't know what we would do otherwise," said Ms Adie, who is disabled.

"It really, really helped us a lot. We are really struggling. For us, it has been a godsend."

Image caption Arrabella Rose and her brother Christopher Jnr have been so "excited" to collect their lunch, mother Charlotte Dixon said

Mother-of-two Charlotte Dixon, from Bedford, is not working and was told about the "amazing" LunchBox scheme by a friend.

"With everything that is going on and them not being at school, they are eating me out of house and home," she said.

Wendie Harvey, the charity's chief executive officer, said the hand-outs were not "means-tested".

It started on 1 July and runs until 4 September. Before the school summer holidays, the charity was giving out about 40 meals a day.

Image caption Each lunchbox contains a piece of fruit, a sandwich or pasta salad, a drink, raisins, a chocolate biscuit bar and a packet of crisps

That number increased to about 50 when the holidays started and on Monday 62 meals were needed.

"It's never been this busy and the families are telling us they have lost their income and they have been really worried about how they are going to get through the summer holidays," she said.

She added they were "families that have never needed help before" and who have "never asked for help before".

Image caption Wendie Harvey said each box costs about £4 to produce and put together and is paid for by donations

Pippa Shrimpton said her husband lost his job in May and, due to childcare issues, she had been unable to find work.

"We've been through quite a lot," she said.

She said receiving Universal Credit helped but as it only came "once a month" she was "ever so grateful" for the food.

Image caption The food is handed out during the week from a 'takeaway' window at the charity's headquarters at Church Lane Community Centre, in Bedford

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