A HOT meal delivery service, set up by a charity that supports people with learning difficulties, is in desparate need of volunteer drivers to help keep the initiative running in the lead up to Christmas.

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The Sudbury-based service, which caters for elderly people who are housebound or too unwell to get out, operates from the Bridge Project at Bradbury Courtyard in Gainsborough Street.

Set up nearly two years ago by Anesta Newson – who was awarded an MBE earlier this year - the service grew out of a lunch club at the project’s café and now delivers around 130 hot meals every week.

The lunchtime run operates between noon and 12.40pm, Monday to Friday, delivering to homes within a 10 minute walk of Bradbury Courtyard. Throughout the year, the local Waitrose supermarket provides a van to help deliver the meals, but during the busy festive season, the store will be unable to spare the vehicle.

Mrs Newson said: “Particularly at this time of year when the weather is cold, there is a real need for people to have a hot meal served up on a plate, which has been ‘home-cooked’ rather than microwaved.

“The service has grown considerably in popularity and one man told us it had virtually saved his mother’s life after she came out of hospital and didn’t have an appetite. She really looked forward to her meals from the Bridge Project and it got her eating again and back to full strength.”

According to Mrs Newson, the charity will have to rely on taxis to deliver the meals throughout December if enough volunteer drivers cannot be found.

She added: “What we need is people who can spare 40 minutes out of their day to drive the volunteers with the meals to the clients’ homes. The food is all boxed and packed so all that we need is someone who has a car and who is willing to drive for us.”

Ideally, the Bridge Project would like to expand the hot meal service to other parts of the town and Mrs Newson said she hoped some volunteers might be persuaded to stay on after Christmas, adding: “It’s not just a case of providing a meal for these people - it really does offer a way to make a real difference to their lives. ”

Lunch, which includes a hot pudding, consists of classic dishes such as fisherman’s pie, stew and dumplings, and roast dinners, and costs £5. People with learning disabilities help prepare and deliver the food, which is all made fresh in the Bridge Project café just before the delivery run. The service also acts as an ‘unofficial wellbeing check’ because the team checks on clients’ welfare and reports back to the relevant bodies. Prospective volunteer drivers can call Anesta or Tanya on 01787 313691.

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