The Kirkcaldy chef feeding kids for free during school holidays with the help of his local community

When Gavin Campbell started charging £1 for kids’ meals at Templehall Café a customer gave him £10 to pay for the next 10.

That was the start of a community effort to help the chef continue to provide affordable school holiday lunches for families in one of the most deprived areas of Fife.

Now he receives regular donations to cover kids’ meals, whether it’s regulars leaving the change as they settle their bills or local businesses giving three-figure sums.

He even had a man call from India to donate £500 which helped him hand out hundreds of Easter eggs during the spring holiday.

Many parents in Kirkcaldy’s Templehall area are out of work or struggling by on low wages.

But between Gavin’s generous offer – a £1 kids’ meal with every adult meal purchased during the holidays – and the community footing the £1 bill, it’s more likely they can afford to dine out during the holidays.

Gavin’s customers and many supporters help pay for kids to eat free at Templehall Café. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson.

Gavin, who has worked as a chef at several Fife hotels, started offering free school holiday meals soon after opening his Dunearn Drive café with mum Elizabeth in 2014 and spotting the need.

He said: “This is Templehall and everyday you see poverty.

“Kids would come in in the morning and ask what they could get for a £1.

“I would end up doing them a wee half box of chips, which would cost me anyway as we would be paying for the box.

“I thought how can we do this so it’s not going to sink me financially?”

An old lady heard what we were doing and handed in £10 and said that’s 10 kids’ meals paid for.”

Spiralling costs – including soaring electricity bills – forced him to introduce a £1 charge last year to offset a portion of the loss being made by the café from the offer.

And that’s when local people stepped in to help.

He said: “An old lady heard what we were doing and handed in £10 and said that’s 10 kids’ meals paid for.”

As word spread, more and more people did the same – effectively keeping kids’ meals free.

A tally book of donations is kept behind the counter and ticked off as children come in.

He said: “It is overwhelming. I didn’t expect this to happen but we’ve just gone with it.

Helping Templehall Café feed the kids

“When the holidays are coming up people start coming in and saying here’s something for the kids’ meals, here’s £20, there’s £50, or whatever. Or if people have £3 left in their change they say keep that for the kids.”.

If the community hears the fund is running low, Gavin is confident folk will rally to give it a boost.

Seeing children enjoy a hot lunch or treats they might not otherwise have had makes it all worthwhile for the Templehall Café team

Gavin said: “Kids will get a Slush Puppie, an ice-cream or a cake that they weren’t going to get because their meal has been covered.

“It’s good just to see them smiling.”

Dad to 13-year-old Mackenzie, who often helps out in the café, Gavin knows all too well how much it can cost to feed, clothe and entertain children.

Gavin is often helped behind the counter by son Mackenzie, 13. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson.

As does one of his regular customers and neighbour, mum-of-three Gemma Dewar.

Gemma sees what the Templehall Café does for local families and says she is “forever” recommending it to fellow parents.

She said: “Gavin and the entire team are incredible. I don’t think anyone could put into words how appreciated everything they do is.

“For a lot of people it [the café] is a godsend.

“A lot of people don’t have the financial means to go and have a wee lunch here or a wee lunch there, or just to go and ensure their kids get a hot meal.

“The kids are eating for free and for a lot of families that means they are not having to stress about finding an extra £5 or £6 to pay for them.”

Templehall Café is among a number of restaurants and cafés in Fife where children can eat for free or £1 during the school holidays.

Lifestyle – The Courier