Cycling, from left, are Lucy Chase, Jo Hurst and Sue Rose with project manager for the Swan Youth Project, Anna Foster, left, and Frances Rayner. Picture: Ian Burt

Volunteers behind the Downham Market No Child Goes Hungry scheme have been “blown away” by support from the community.

They recently launched an online fundraising page with a £4,500 target to buy food for children of families who have been hit hard financially by the pandemic.

And this week, the target was smashed following a successful two-day virtual cycling challenge which sparked a surge of online donations, plus £900 collected in buckets.

The fundraiser, held last Friday and Saturday, saw 40 volunteers take it in turns to cycle 600 miles in 12 hours at the town square in Downham.

Some of the town’s businesses showed their support by having their own teams of cyclists.

Organiser Frances Rayner said: “It was brilliant. I think the town really enjoyed it to be quite fair. For so long, the town has been quiet.

“But it came to life, we had a bit of music playing and the atmosphere was great. We were blown away by the donations.”

The No Child Goes Hungry scheme was set up last year to initially provide food parcels for two weeks over Christmas for families in need during the holidays.

But thanks to the generosity of local businesses and individuals in the community, the scheme has been extended and money will be kept aside for food parcels.

There are also plans for volunteers  to support families further with education on nutrition. 

In December, volunteers were making food parcels for 90 children per week, coming down to 50 per week in March and now it is down to 15.

Mrs Rayner said: “Thankfully it has gone down as people have gone back to work and children have been able to get vouchers at school.

“We can’t underestimate the damage caused by the pandemic. When people are on a minimum wage and have been furloughed, it’s 80 per cent of that money. We have also been able to signpost people needing help to the right places, too.

“There’s also been an influx of people applying for benefits and a wait to get it sorted. I think we have helped to plug that gap.”

Donations can still be given at: www.justgiving/campaign/nochildgoeshungry