A local chef has been helping vulnerable families in the Irlam community during lockdown.
Matt Thomson, 35, a resident of Irlam and chef, returned to the UK to settle down after working for a popular restaurant chain in Tenerife last year.
Since his return, Matt has been left particularly vulnerable due to the pandemic and has had to move in with his mum.
He said: “I worked for myself through December last year in Chester with my best mate, just helping him out.
“But as I said, because I was working for myself, I didn’t get any furlough or anything.
“I couldn’t even claim any job seekers allowance or anything like that because I hadn’t paid in to my national insurance, while I was away in Tenerife.
“Then during the second lockdown I had to move in with my mum, which was hard as a 35-year-old but I didn’t have any choice.
“There was absolutely no money coming in whatsoever. I thought my head is going to go under.
“I knew that I had to keep busy and think of something otherwise I would have sat in the corner and cried until it was all over”.
During the first lockdown, Thomson got a job in a warehouse which he found difficult to adapt to after working in the food industry since the age of 15.
Feeling unsatisfied and eager to get back into the kitchen, he started cooking and delivering free meals to kids in Irlam and Cadishead, as well as providing food to struggling families.
Matt said: “The amount of people that wanted help was like oh my god, you know I can actually do some good here.
“At night I sold a few meals to help fund it, just cooking from my house and I did a few fundraisers.
“I would be making 60 sandwiches a day; I think the most I made was 66 packed lunches in a day.
Thomson has received huge support from the community in donations from cash to items he can use in the packed lunches.
He said: “I can’t thank the community enough; the feedback has been absolutely phenomenal, people message me on my Facebook and drop £20 or £100 in.
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On this journey I’ve met some truly amazing people so the donations will be divided…
“I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to stop at my mums but a lot of people don’t have that support and have fallen on hard times just because of the pandemic.
“I’ve got two kids myself up north that I’ve not been able to see during lockdown, it’s been quite hard for me.
“But at least the mother of my two children is still working so they are getting supported, whereas some of these families haven’t even got that.
“When I first started doing it, I got one of the food parcels and I was looking at it thinking this is not a meal here for a week.
“The government was also giving vouchers out, but young kids are going without because they have to stretch on these vouchers.
“It’s really heartbreaking to see, so I try and do as much as I can”.
More information on how to donate can be found on his Facebook page.