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Mearns fish and chip shop serves up 400 free meals to local children

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The chip shop owner offered chicken fillets and sausage suppers for youngsters, and will be serving fish and chips this Friday.

A Mearns fish and chip shop owner has served up 400 free suppers to local children in the hope of getting more young people out and about for some fresh air.

Lorraine Watson of The Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven wanted to give something back to her local community and thought the best way to help parents who were struggling with home schooling was to give out free lunch meals to children.

Launching the service two weeks ago, Lorraine, who has owned the business for nine years, says she and her team have fed around 400 people already, and is anticipating this Friday’s service to be much busier with fish and chips on the menu for the first time.

From left: Owners Murray, Lorraine and Charlie Watson with manager Jennifer Middleton of The Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven.

Support from local suppliers

Handing out portions of chicken fillets with chips and sausages and chips which her suppliers Charles McHardy Butchers and William Fraser gave her for free, Lorraine has been able to offer free lunches to local kids on Fridays for the past two weeks.

Inspired by a friend, Scott Learmonth of RugBug Bennys who has fed more than 1,000 kids in Montrose, Lorraine said giving back to the community which has continued to support her business is the least she could do.

She said: “I know Scott Learmonth of Rug Bug Bennys in Montrose and he decided to give out free meals to kids recently. We followed his journey on his social media pages and I spoke with the team and decided to get on board and do something for our local community.

“We decided that on Fridays we’d encourage parents to get out of the house with their kids and come and get some free lunches for the children. We have five grandchildren ourselves and I know lots of people who are struggling with home schooling so we wanted to do something to help.

“We didn’t know how many kids we’d have turning up and Robert from Charles McHardy jumped at the opportunity to be involved and supplied me with chicken fillets and sausages for free. My potato merchant William Fraser also said he’d throw in a couple bags of potatoes. All we had to do was have staff on.

“It was all about getting the kids out after a morning of home schooling. We’d have the food ready and boxed for them to take away. The first Friday received a great response but last Friday was so overwhelming as more people had heard about what we were doing and were messaging us so many lovely messages.”

From left: Ruby Lawrence, four, with her sisters Chloe Lawrence, 11, Lily Lawrence, six, enjoying their free lunch from The Carron Fish Bar. The girls were some of the first customers to get their food.

Local kids only

Providing free meals to local children, Lorraine is not encouraging families from other towns to travel from Stonehaven and asks just those who live locally to pop down to the venue.

“We’re only asking local kids to come down and we’re not encouraging anyone to travel. The kids have to have an adult present, too. Everyone has to socially distance when they arrive and we open the door from 11.30am to 1.30pm for the two-hour slot. That gives people a long time and means there’s no rush for people to come down,” said Lorraine.

“I deal with all of the parents coming to the front and hand out the food very quickly. They take the boxes and then we move onto the next child. The smiles on the kids’ faces has been so rewarding, they are loving getting out – and it is something many of them now look forward to.

“The staff and I couldn’t believe how much food we had put out and we all felt this incredible buzz. It was even chucking down with rain at one point and people were still there waiting patiently.

🍟FREE KIDS LUNCH TODAY🍟C'mon everyone get out and get your free lunch! The weather may not be great but surely in…

Posted by Carron Fish Bar on Friday, 29 January 2021

“One of the school hubs asked if we’d be willing to feed the children they had and asked to put in an order for the kids. We did that and they picked it up and took it back to the school. We received some pictures of the kids sitting around the tables enjoying their lunchtime meals. They loved the chicken fillets and sausages.

“For the next two weeks our fish merchant King Foods will be supplying us with free fish for us so we’ll have fish suppers on the menu. Lots of the kids have been asking for fish so we’ve managed to get that organised for them.”

Running for one month

Organising the free meals every Friday for a month, the staff at The Carron Fish Bar will continue to feed children for the next two weeks, by which time Lorraine is hopeful they will be returning to school.

She added: “Seeing all the kids’ faces has been so lovely. We haven’t seen so many teenagers down for meals, but we want to make sure they know they can come down and get some food for free, too. Some of them just wanted chips and cheese, and we are more than happy to do that for them.

“We’re going to run it for a month and we’re just hoping (First Minister) Nicola Sturgeon makes changes and allows the kids to go back to school after mid-term.”

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