Free snacks and store cupboard staples are on offer to families in Bishop Auckland this winter in a bid to reduce food waste.
The food is available at Woodhouse Close One Point Family Centre in Walker Drive, where visitors can also help themselves to free winter clothing, including coats, hats, wellies and jumpers.
It is hoped this will not only reduce food waste and recycle unwanted clothing, but will assist anyone struggling to feed and clothe their families over the chilly winter months.
Joanne Iceton, of Little Chefs, Big Chefs Community Interest Company (CIC) introduced the scheme, with support from staff at the Durham County Council-run family centre, where she has run cooking workshops.
The food is donated from local Tesco, Lidl and Marks and Spencer stores through the FareShare and Neighbourly schemes, where perfectly edible food which would have gone to waste is collected. Joanne also donates the food to local foodbanks as part of her work to tackle food poverty and promote healthy eating in the south Durham area.
Food that is available at the centre includes bread, scones, pastries and fresh fruit and vegetables, such as bananas, satsumas and grapes. Local residents have also boosted supplies by donating tinned food and store cupboard staples including pasta and rice.
Clothing donations also arrive daily thanks to kind-hearted members of the community.
Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “This is a wonderful initiative and I can’t praise Joanne, the One Point team and the local community enough for making it a success. Not only is it cutting down on food waste but is helping families to stay warm and healthy this winter.”
Cllr Jane Brown, Cabinet member for social inclusion, said: “The run-up to Christmas is an exciting time but it can put extra financial pressure on families. Schemes like this mean people can access additional food and clothes for free, without having to answer questions or fill in forms.”
Joanne set up Little Chefs, Big Chefs CIC after noticing the benefits cookery lessons brought to people who attended the family centre where she worked. The aim is to teach children and adults essential cookery skills and educate them on nutrition.
Joanne said: “The food donation side of our work grew out of the workshops, as we noticed some families were struggling to afford fresh fruit and vegetables.
“We were already registered with FareShare and Neighbourly and were able to pass on food donations to food banks in the area. But what is so great about the scheme here at Woodhouse Close, is that it is really easy for people to access it. The stores have been fantastic in offering a variety of food to support this initiative so credit must be given to them.
“The supplies on offer would have been thrown away and by taking items, families are doing their bit to reduce food waste. This removes stigma and really is a win-win situation.”