Work has started on a £37,000 project to transform a St Helens church, creating a facility to provide deprived children with healthy meals.
St Helens Baptist Church will be converted into community facility.
A kitchen will be created at the Hall Street church and used to make free meals for children when schools are closed.
The kitchen will also be used to make healthy and inexpensive meals to serve in the church’s cafe.
Funding for the work is coming from various sources including The Veolia Environmental Trust who have awarded a grant of £11,860 through the Landfill Communities Fund.
John McMenamy, the church’s building committee chairman, said: “We are delighted that work is getting started.
“Free school meals make a huge difference to almost two million children in the UK, but when the schools are closed, the meals stop and many families struggle.
“The kitchen will mean we can start to close the gap in provision, and also provide healthy food for the rest of the community at affordable prices.”
Paul Taylor, executive director of The Veolia Environmental Trust, added: “We are pleased to supporting this project to improve the facilities at St Helens Baptist Church.
“The new kitchen will benefit the whole community and I look forward to seeing it being used and enjoyed.”
Since 2010 the 19th Century St Helens Baptist Church building has been refurbished structurally and cosmetically.
The kitchen project is the final phase of the project to make the church a focal point for the local community and work is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
One day a week for the past two years the church has run the ‘Make Lunch’ scheme, which provides a free lunch during the summer holidays for children who are entitled to free school meals.
However, with the lack of kitchen facilities, the meal has only been soup, sandwiches and cake.
The new kitchen will enable the church to provide hot meals two days a week for the full thirteen weeks a year of school holidays.
The church also plans to hold budget-cookery classes and run a community café six days a week, where the profit will go back into community projects.
Members of the church and Hardshaw Area Tenants and Residents Association conducted a survey of the area after local government data highlighted a lack of a community centre and focus, no appropriate meeting places for young and older people and a large number of single and sometimes lonely people.
In response to the survey the church opened a coffee bar two mornings a week, which has proved hugely popular and has generated funds for other community projects including a youth club, a pensioners’ Christmas party, and events for young people in the school holidays.
The new kitchen will open up even more opportunities for community events and activities.