A Dundee charity that provides food for schoolchildren in the most deprived areas of the city has dished out more than 160,000 meals since it was launched three years ago.
Dundee Bairns started life in 2016 as the brainchild of former Dundee City Council chief executive David Dorward and initially aimed to provide free meals to kids during the school holidays.
As part of Challenge Poverty Week, the Tele met the people behind the charity to find out more about the work they do to help tackle deprivation in the city and their plans to expand.
At a holiday football camp where Dundee Bairns was providing lunch to the hungry kids, David spoke about the high demand the charity has experienced since its inception.
He said: “We started back in 2016 and year on year we have found there has been an increase in the number of kids coming out to be fed.
“Since the roll-out of Universal Credit the demand for the service has certainly gone up.
“We have provided 165,000 meals since we began.”
David pointed to an example during the summer that demonstrates the need for the service.
He said: “Three fun days were held in Lochee earlier this year and we gave out 750 meals on each of the days.
“The queues were so long with people waiting and wanting to be fed.
“We are now looking to hopefully expand and have applied for a grant from the Scottish Government.”
As well as providing free meals during the holidays, Dundee Bairns has also trialled an after school club which provided hot meals to kids at primary schools in the north-east of the city.
David said: “The after school scheme ran for six months and was held five days a week.
“It was part of a homework club so the kids would come along after school.
“The key part of this was that it was providing a heated evening meal. Sometimes we had parents asking for one too. We don’t want to see any child going hungry.”
Jacquie Roberts, vice-chairwoman of the charity, said it was a “tragedy” that these kind of charity projects are still required in this day and age.
She said: “The long-term goal is for us not be needed in Dundee.
“In the meantime, we want to run this not only during the school holidays but in the evenings and at the weekends too.”
Project co-ordinator Amanda Symington also spoke of the vital service the charity provides to families in Dundee.
She said: “We work with a lot of clubs like this one to provide meals to the kids.
“We find that parents and families are maybe more likely to come along for a free meal when it is part of a club rather than just getting the meal.
“Sometimes they feel an element of embarrassment so it helps to do it this way.”
The charity is now aiming to maximise the partnerships it has with community groups in Dundee’s most deprived areas.
Amanda added: “Dundee Bairns would like to speak to clubs in these areas that don’t use us and find out why that is.
“A lot of our promotion is done through social media so it’s a good way of getting the word out.
“If anyone is looking to get involved, whether it be as a driver or a driver’s assistant, then that would be the best place to contact us.”
Charity’s efforts making ‘huge difference’ to lives
Lord Provost Ian Borthwick praised the work being done by Dundee Bairns and said it makes a huge difference to lives in Dundee.
Mr Borthwick was at the holiday football club where the charity was providing a free lunch to the kids.
He said: “The work they do to help young people and their families is commendable.
“It makes a big difference to these people’s lives.”
Mr Borthwick also highlighted the partnership between Dundee Bairns and the city council in working towards helping those living in the most deprived areas – although he admits it’s sad they are still needed.
He said: “The city council helps support them in their work.
“It’s unfortunate they have to do it at all but it’s admirable and excellent work.”
Tracey Stewart, an education officer with the city council, also highlighted the good work being carried out by the Dundee Bairns team across the city.
She said: “The work they do in the most deprived areas in Dundee really helps the kids.
“These areas are specifically targeted through the use of data and aims to help communities in these areas.
“The after school club they ran was also good for the health and wellbeing of the children.
“It was an opportunity to get a hot meal as well as receive help with homework and engage in other activities.
“Those who came along to the clubs were recommended by the teachers at their schools.
“They knew the ones who would benefit from this type of club.”