Natalie Lek, who has a reputation of being the ‘food fairy of the North’ for her charity work, is struggling to come up with the funds to provide over 1000 dinners to those in need this Christmas.
Since her last feature on Salford Now, Natalie has been unable to reach her initial goal of £3000.
‘The Launch Project’ aims to provide support to those who find this time of year tough, by delivering them both a free traditional dinner and a present on Christmas Day. However, due to lack of donations, Natalie is still yet find the funds for key elements of the meal.
“My concern is we haven’t got any turkeys or hams at the moment, those big high value items that we can’t get donated by supermarkets. All I’m getting offered is a £20 gift voucher and with all due respect £20 isn’t going to feed 1000, it doesn’t even cover the cost of one turkey.”
Do you believe you will reach the £3000 goal?
“I don’t know, and I am very anxious about it. The reason why it is a £3000 goal is because it doesn’t just cover the food, it is the first year we have done 1000 meals as well as 1000 presents and the presents have to cover people of all ages; children to the elderly.
Unfortunately we have to cater for the lack of present donations which is why the target is so high.”
Salford Now have contacted the 5 leading supermarkets and we are awaiting a response.
Aldi say they are unable to take forward individual charitable requests outside their existing partnerships.
Tesco, ASDA, Sainsburys and Morrisons were also approached for a comment.
How does last year compare?
“Last year it was an eye opener because it was the first year we had done the 1000, we had a situation where we had to stop taking referrals, and there wasn’t enough capacity to provide the meals. The impact on the community wasn’t just for us in Salford, it was the whole of Greater Manchester that is why projects like this are so important.
“We had one particular person drive all the way up from Glossop to come and collect dinners for his family because he didn’t have enough money to purchase the dinners themselves.”
Was it hard to stop taking referrals?
“It was heart-breaking, absolutely heart-breaking. But we simply didn’t have enough food. We were catering for every dietary requirement including halal and kosher and there just wasn’t enough resources which I am worried will happen again this year.”
We are a bit behind on the food donations and also on the uptake. I think that is partially to do with my work load with university, I haven’t been able to dedicate enough time to post on social media.”
— The Launch Project #LaunchMCR (@LaunchMCR) 5 December 2018
Local people have been helping Natalie collect presents such as the Salford binmen, however, she needs a lot more help before Christmas day.
Natalie not only runs her own charitable business, she looks after her 5 children whilst undergoing her third year at the University of Salford studying Law.
How do your children feel about not being with their mother on Christmas Day?
“We have our family time after Christmas day. They love it, they love seeing the results and hearing about stories and its very important as well to give them a strong female role model to look up to and it also reinforces the fact that I’m just the same as any other person and anyone can do what I can do I’m doing, telling them they can do anything if they put their mind to it.”
Are you disappointed with this year’s progress?
“I would have thought after of last year’s coverage, that supermarkets would be keen to support us this year, but there has been nothing coming through so far.”
“At some point, we have to strategize for next year, so we can make more than a 1000 but at the moment it just isn’t an option.”
As if preparing for this and her law exams at the start of 2019 wasn’t enough, she already has her next year planned out, packed with community and charity projects.
With less than two weeks left to go until Christmas, she is on her last stretch to raise enough money in time to ensure everyone has a merry Christmas.
Listen to the full interview here: