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New food scheme to help struggling families

Volunteers Liz Travers, Simon Franoux, Simon Glanville, Stephen Looker with founder of Melksham For You Kirstie Mckeown and her daughter Orla-Rosabella.

A LOCAL Melksham woman who arrived in the town homeless last year, has kick-started her own community scheme to help struggling families.

Starting from scratch just eight weeks ago, Kirstie McKeown has set up a new scheme called Melksham Food For You. The initiative collects food from local businesses at the end of the day that can’t legally be sold the next day, but is still fit for consumption.

With the help of volunteers, that include her six year-old daughter, Orla-Rosabella, the food is distributed from outside the TownHall to those in the community that need it the most. “A lot of people that approach me are working families, the people who I am trying to help,” said Kirstie.

Originally from Scotland, Kirstie and Orla-Rosabella moved into a Melksham hostel for the homeless in September last year. The pair have since moved into their own two- bedroom rented flat and now have big plans to give back to the community. “I have been inspired by the kindness and the welcome that we have received from the people of Melksham,” explained Kirstie.

“I’ve experienced homelessness myself. I know just how quickly life can turn on a sixpence. No one should be ashamed to say ‘I need some food’.”

A local woman who is a beneficiary of the scheme said, “It helps because we are on a low income and when we’ve paid our bills we don’t have enough left for food.”

Local business, Buttylicious, was one of the first to agree to help Kirstie. Owner Tina Freeman said, “People need help and I sometimes have excess stock. I want to help people in need in the community.”

Greggs in Melksham also donate to the scheme on a regular basis. “The food we donate is the end of day stuff that we can’t sell. This is food that would normally get sent back to the bakery to be destroyed,” explained Greggs manager Alison Doyle.

“It’s better that this food goes to someone who needs it and it’s nice to help the community.

“This is something Greggs does across the country, but until Kirstie approached us, we had nowhere to donate it to.”

This is only the beginning for Melksham Food For You with plans in the pipeline to expand the scheme to support the wider community. “What I want to do eventually is open up a community supermarket,” said Kirstie.

“I’ve applied to Barclays and to the National Lottery for funding to open the community supermarket and I’ve already spoken to all the big supermarkets, with some of them agreeing to donate when I have somewhere to distribute from.”

In the meantime, Kirstie has plans to use the donations from Greggs and Buttylicious to make packed lunches over the summer holiday for children from families who rely on free school lunches.

The new initiative has seen some scepticism online, but Kirstie had some encouraging words for those in doubt, “There have been some comments that this is a handout. Yes it is, it’s a handout of generosity, love, food and affection coming straight from the heart of the community.

“Melksham is a town to be proud of and if we all muck together, sleeves rolled up, boots on the ground we can sort the basic needs of people.”

Food is collected and distributed after 6pm on weekdays from outside the Town Hall and after 5pm on weekends. If you would like to volunteer or contribute to the scheme please email Kirstie, kirstie.mckeown@yahoo.com