SAINTS will today launch a community campaign that will see them hand out 12,000 free meals over the next 12 weeks, the Daily Echo can reveal.

The dishes will be prepared from scratch, and then frozen, by their chefs at St Mary’s Stadium before being distributed to FareShare who will hand them out to Southampton’s most vulnerable citizens.

This will include youngsters living in poverty and Southampton-based charities such as YMCA and Society of St James, which helps vulnerable adults including those who are homeless.

The Daily Echo understands that this commitment is costing the club around £70,000 to £100,000.

Saints have been thinking of ways to help the community amid the coronavirus pandemic and have come up with a ‘Saints As One’ initiative.

Their plan is to reach the isolated and vulnerable members of society during the crisis, as well as providing education and entertainment content.

Saints Foundation, the club’s charitable arm, are involved in the project and will be supplying FareShare with an army of volunteers to help with distributing the meals.

The first batch of meals will be picked up on April 3, and sent out across the following seven days, before subsequent pick-ups at the same time each week thereafter.

Handing out 1,000 well-balanced dinners a week for the next three months is stage one of their campaign and more acts of kindness are set to follow.

But in today’s launch, the club will also reveal their pledge to donate 1,000 free matchday tickets to NHS staff and their families once football resumes.

David Thomas, Saints’ chief commercial officer, said: “The club and Saints Foundation are both proud of holding a place at the heart of the community, and we are committed to supporting everyone within it at this time, whether that be in person, online or offline.

“We hope through these initiatives that we can help to make a real difference to people in need, while also being there for our fanbase in a variety of ways during these challenging times.”

Greg Baker, head of Saints Foundation and Community Partnerships, said: “We are incredibly pleased to be working with FareShare to provide additional support to some of the most vulnerable members of our society at this difficult time.

“Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the need for food to support vulnerable groups has increased significantly, while at the same time surplus from the industry has diminished.

“These two factors have combined to leave many of our most isolated and at-risk individuals across the community struggling for food, particularly hot, nutritious and balanced meals.”

Other aspects of the Saints As One initiative will see the club contact isolated and vulnerable project participants to provide any support that’s required.

They will also be donating a large amount of fruits and vegetables to the Society of St James, as well as doing volunteer work with charities and agencies in the city, including the NHS.