A lunch club in Caithness plans to build a new base next year to meet ever-growing demand.
Dunbeath Lunch Club currently seats 25 people at a time, but its new premises next to Dunbeath and the District Center will have three times that capacity.
The expansion – which will also provide health and wellness services to people across Caithness – comes when there is more need than for the service to help ensure people in the community do not go hungry.
Operational growth manager Daniel Macleod said the team, which serves more than 200 lunches a week, has seen a more diverse crowd coming through the doors in recent months due to the cost of living crisis.
Now he sees a mix of people at the club, including families and younger people, whereas previously most people were over 55.
Dunbeath Lunch Club is open five days a week, providing hot meals to hundreds of people using food donated by charity Cfine each month.
Mr Macleod estimates that more than 6,000 soups were served last year and admits that without the support of Cfine – which supports groups in the Highlands and Grampian – he doesn’t know how they could meet the growing demand.
There are more than 200 lunches at the clubs each week, and if there is enough food left over, the team usually puts together dinners twice a month as well.
For those in the local community who cannot make it to the club, drivers will be sent to their homes with food parcels to ensure no one goes hungry.
Cfine helped “massively”.
Mr Macleod said: “We support many families in South East Caithness, including single parents. The demand seems to be greater and it is definitely on the rise.
“The Cfine fareshare program benefits us tremendously in many ways, most notably we save money on eco-friendly food that we can use to serve healthy meals to the community – it’s really positive.
“It’s also about reducing waste, getting your hands on products and using them so they don’t go to waste.”
Mr Macleod believes the social aspect of the Lunch Club is extremely important given the small community where people know everyone and can enjoy themselves.
Even those who feared returning after the pandemic have returned, embracing the opportunity to reconnect with others.
Anything else left over from the Cfine order after all meals are taken care of is placed in the “Sharing Shack” – a container unit that the community can access at their own discretion.
Canned goods, muesli and pasta are available to take away. You can leave a donation, but it is not required.
Great Christmas food appeal
The Press and Journal, Evening Express, Energy Voice and Original 106 highlight initiatives like the Dunbeath Lunch Club as part of our ongoing call to eat.
We want to highlight the help that is available for people who are struggling to support themselves and end the stigma of food poverty.
We’ve partnered with Cfine to encourage giving – both through our JustGiving page and Amazon Wishlist – and show what their support can do for communities across the north of Scotland.
Last week we showed how youth in Cromarty run a youth café with donations and learn life skills in the process.
We also celebrate the tireless work of volunteers in our communities – if you know a group working to help feed people email firstname.lastname@example.org
As part of the Big Christmas Food Appeal, we also operate drop-off points for donations. These are located at: Press and Journal, Stoneyfield Business Park, Inverness; Moray Food Plus, High Street, Elgin; 1 and 2 Marischal Square, Broad Street, Aberdeen; and the Trinity Centre, Aberdeen.
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[Dunbeath Lunch Club already serves more than 200 meals a week]