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Plans to expand community kitchen in face of poverty and ‘sheer volume of need’

'The sense of community is very heartening. It takes a lot of guts to come forward and say you need help, as pride often holds people back'

Thomas Larkham, Anne Friel and John Creaney

A community kitchen which was set up during the Covid-19 pandemic is planning to expand its work to provide much-needed support in the Craigavon area.

To date, Lakeside Family Community Kitchen has prepared and delivered 8,500 hot meals throughout the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council area.

The meals are provided free to families and individuals who need them most.

The service is run by volunteers and made possible by generous donations of food and resources from community organisations, businesses and private individuals.

It was set up a year ago by SDLP councillor Thomas Larkham, who lives in Pinebank, and Kernan residents John Creaney and Anne Friel.

A team of around 12-15 volunteers  cook and prepare the meals on Friday evenings and a team of volunteer drivers distribute them on Saturday mornings.

Said John: “We hadn’t realised how much poverty is out there and the sheer volume of need. We are dealing with people who are isolating, those who have mental health issues, the elderly and victims of domestic abuse.

“We want to expand the service to provide more meals on more days. There is one woman who survives on cereal and the dinner we deliver is the only hot meal she gets in a week.”

The group delivers around 165 meals a week, all of which are cooked from fresh and include vegetarian and halal options.

It also delivers meals and sandwiches as well as hygiene parcels, to hostels for the homeless in Newry and Belfast.

Said Thomas: “We want to thank all the businesses and individuals in the local community for their help and support over the past 12 months, both in terms of donations and volunteering time.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without them. The sense of community is very heartening. It takes a lot of guts to come forward and say you need help, as pride often holds people back.

“The service we provide is confidential and we also work with other partner organisations to help people access different types of help.

“We have also found that, for some people, the delivery of the meal is the only interaction they have all week, so it is providing a vital service as well in terms of human contact.”

Anyone wishing to avail of the service, or who knows of anyone who might, should send a message via their Facebook page or telephone 07925 523497.

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