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Youth cafe in Tain receives funding boost for free meals programme in time for Easter holidays

By Niall Harkiss

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For the past six years, Tain Youth Cafe YMCA has been provided fresh and healthy food to children during the holidays.
For the past six years, Tain Youth Cafe YMCA has been provided fresh and healthy food to children during the holidays.

A youth cafe in Easter Ross has landed a funding award to help vulnerable children and young people over the Easter school holidays.

The £750 grant from North Highland Initiative’s Community Infrastructure Support Programme (CISP), will provide a boost to Tain Youth Café YMCA's now well established free meals initiative.

The North Highland Initiative (NHI) funding will be used specifically by Tain Youth Café YMCA to respond to rising demand, as they continue to offer thousands of fresh and healthy free meals to eligible children in Tain and surrounding villages. The meals will be of particular help to parents who have been impacted by Covid-related financial losses and to assist with the growing increases being experienced through household bills.

For the past six years, the youth cafe has been providing fresh and healthy free meals to primary school aged children over all the Easter and summer holidays. During the pandemic, and because of extra grants available, they were fortunate to expand the programme to include more villages surrounding Tain over the summer.

In summer 2019, Tain Youth Café YMCA provided 504 free meals to local children, and by summer 2021 the number of free meals being offered to youngsters had leapt to around 5,900 covering six villages, demonstrating the significant impact that Covid has had on local families and their need to access the free meals service.

Last summer alone, Tain Youth Café YMCA served around 9,000 slices of bread; 4,760 chicken nuggets; 504 slices of pizza and 672 hot dogs.

Graham Nutt, senior youth and community worker for Tain Youth Café YMCA, said: "We’re extremely grateful to North Highland initiative’s Community Infrastructure Support Programme for helping us to continue delivering our free meals initiative to vulnerable young people in Tain and surrounding villages this Easter holidays.

"The application was easy to complete and the NHI team were very helpful, especially the quick turn-around from applying to receiving the funds, so I would encourage any eligible charity to apply to the fund.

"We know that this vital service will need to continue throughout 2022 as families struggle to recover from the pandemic and who are starting to experience increased household bills. We are already seeking funding to repeat the last summer programme, which was a major success on many levels.

"During the pandemic, we’ve been able to show how quickly and professionally small, independent charities like ours can deliver services direct to the communities we serve, based on identified needs. Our ongoing free meals service is already helping to improve children’s physical and mental wellbeing in the local area.”

The youth cafe shared a few of the comments from parents and children who have benefited from the initiative.

“Lunch Club has given me a reason to get out and about with the boys. We get lunch and then go to the Rose Gardens or down the Links and play – they are loving it!’” (parent of two preschool boys).

“If I made a jam sandwich for lunch at home there is no way ‘F’ would eat it. Coming here though she thinks it’s the best thing ever!” (parent of two).

“I get to come to lunch club by myself now and collect lunch for me and my little sister. Mam trusts me to come and get it alone and to choose something she will like. It makes me feel very grown up and mature.” (young primary school leaver).

“It’s brilliant. I know all the staff who serve lunch club and being a larger family I’m able to send them my requests in the morning, then nip down and pick it up. They are amazing. They have it all ready and even know what kinds of crisps the kids like! We would be lost without it.” (parent to a larger blended family, who orders up to 10 meals per day).

Genevieve Duhigg, non-executive chair of NHI, said: "The devastating impact of the pandemic and the growing increase in household bills is continuing to hit families and communities right across the north Highlands, so it’s more important than ever that we get funding support to those worst affected right now, especially vulnerable children and young people.

"The Tain Youth Café YMCA is a great example of a local charity releasing the potential of all children, young people and families within its community, as well as helping to improve children’s physical and mental wellbeing. NHI is really proud to be supporting this project and we congratulate the whole team at Tain Youth Café YMCA for their tireless hard work for families in Ross-shire."

For more information about Tain Youth Café, visit tainyouthcafe.co.uk.

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