Volunteers serve up 5,000th free meal to those in need across Lancaster and Morecambe
A community project set up to help feed people in need across the district has served up its 5,000th meal.
The Father's House takeaway cafe was set up in November after volunteers at the church realised support for the local community was desperately needing during the pandemic.
Since then, thousands of hot home-cooked meals have been served up to help families and the homeless across Lancaster and Morecambe.
And last Thursday, the 5,000th meal was given away to one of the cafe's regular customers.
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Chef and organiser Ellen Thurlow said: "We have had a cafe here for a few years but we decided we wanted to do more and put back into the community, and we talked about how we could feed the hungry.
"On our first day we wondered if anyone would come so we made 40 meals, and then the next time we did more, and it's just grown from there.
"When we started, my husband went around the area and invited people in but we don't need to do that any more."
Meals are available at the Owen Road church on Tuesday and Thursday lunchtimes from noon until 1.30pm, and the group is helped out by donations from the public and church members, together with food donations from local businesses and the foodbanks, and generous discounts from local suppliers.
They currently average 208 meals a week, made up of a main and a pussing.
"Our previous cafe customers put money in a donation box," Ellen said. "A lot of people are just willing to give, we are truly blessed, we have found such generosity."
99 per cent of the food is home made on the premises using as many fresh ingredients as they can, whilealso trying to balance the nutrition. A vegetarian option is also offered.
"It's open to anybody, the idea is just to help as many people as possible," said Ellen. "Of course there will be those who take advantage but if we can help just one person and give them back their pride then it's worth it.
"We have noticed that when people first come they have their heads bowed because they are embarrassed they have had to do it - some of them can have good jobs but suddenly find themselves struggling and desperate.
"But we don't ask any questions, and what we have seen is people gaining their pride back, and it's a delight to see.
"There's a new joy about a lot of those people, it's amazing.
"We have people coming in from across Lancaster and Morecambe - everyone is welcome, and no referral is needed."
Ellen, 69, is assisted by several volunteers, the average age of whom is 70.
And they will be carrying on their work even after the pandemic is over.
"As long as there's a need for it, we will be here," she said. "People ask me for my recipes, so a part of my vision is to share my skills and educate as well."