Belfast Telegraph

Ballymoney's mayor Bill Kennedy to give up his Christmas dinner to help poor

By Chris Kilpatrick

A Co Antrim mayor is giving up his Christmas dinner to help feed struggling families.

Ballymoney first citizen Bill Kennedy has cancelled the annual mayor's Christmas dinner and is instead handing the money it would have cost to stage it to a charity food bank.

It's the first time the civic reception, which hosts councillors and invited guests, has been cancelled.

Mr Kennedy said: "I thought it was the right thing to do when there are a lot of people who don't have much money and there maybe isn't a lot of festive cheer.

"Many people are depending on food banks, people are out of work and doing their best just to exist.

"It was a better way to spend the money and help those people."

While unable to provide a specific total donation at this stage, he said it would be "sizeable".

John McClements, who helps run the Ballymoney food bank, praised the gesture.

He said: "It's absolutely brilliant. Ballymoney council has supported us from the very start and the fact that the councillors would put themselves out, and do without for the food bank - I just think it's brilliant."

Mr McClements said this Christmas was "a bit of an unknown" in terms of demand for the emergency food.

He said: "We would be expecting it rise dramatically in the next couple or three weeks.

"Referrals work through a voucher system, so for instance if you were struggling, and you were in with your doctor, your social worker or health visitor - and the list goes on.

"If you were struggling to feed your family we provide a service and we will give you the voucher list of food which will feed your family for a week, and that takes the pressure off."

More than 11,000 people are said to have received emergency food parcels in Northern Ireland last year.

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