A SHOP owner will be donating meals to those in need this Christmas and is encouraging others to do the same.

Sara Headley, of Sara's Flowers and Teas, on Pitt Street, will be operating a suspended meals scheme at her Barnsley and Stocksbridge shops, where customers can buy a meal for themselves and pay for another to donate to someone in need.

Every donation made by a customer will be matched by Ms Headley.

"We're not doing it for publicity, it's to give something back to those who need it in the community," she said.

"We have a lot of customers who are on their own and are lonely. It's really surprising how many people are on their own, or have just lost their job or are struggling to pay bills and need that bit of kindness.

"People can give someone a token or nominate someone who they think needs it. They hand the token over and that removes the stigma of them having to ask us for a free meal."

The shop will also be running a similar scheme involving cups of coffee and has already had several businesses offer to donate warm drinks as part of this.

She added: "It's all going to be run in good faith. We can't look at someone and decide whether or not they're down on their luck because you don't know.

"If someone wants to abuse that then they're taking help away from someone who really needs it.

"I want other coffee shops to get in touch with me and I can show them how to get involved and how they can register to be part of it."

Very few businesses in Yorkshire are involved in the suspended coffee and meals schemes, an idea that was first piloted in Italy.

For information or to donate, call 01226 283886.