THREE more stores have joined a scheme donating surplus food directly to local charities to help vulnerable people in the area.

Aldi stores in Seaham, Peterlee and Spennymoor have got on board the co-ordinated effort to provide elderly and other needy groups with a regular hot meal.

The Kitchen @ 66, run by The Cornforth Partnership, the Ferryhill Ladder Centre and Bishop Auckland Women’s Refuge will all receive weekly food donations from the Spennymoor branch of the store chain.

In Peterlee, The Partnership Project, which helps young people in the area, will collect food donations five days a week from the Aldi store at the Castle Dene Centre, in the town centre.

Drug treatment centre Free The Way, voluntary organisation CHANCE Sunderland and Café Together will benefit from donations from the Seaham store

The new partnerships are part of a trial between the supermarket and community engagement platform, Neighbourly.

So far, Aldi has paired up a total of six stores in the North-East with local good causes which are now collecting surplus food up to five days every week.

Each store is donating perishable items such as fresh fruit and veg, chilled products such as yoghurt and milk, and baked goods.

The trial will continue until the spring, and, if successful, will be rolled out across Aldi’s entire store estate.

Last year the supermarket donated two million meals to charity and expects to increase this by 50-per cent if the trial is extended to its 827 stores.

Fritz Walleczek, managing director of corporate responsibility at Aldi UK and Ireland, said: “We’re always looking for new and creative ways to increase the amount of food we are able to donate.

“This partnership is enabling us to be even more efficient in how we distribute surplus stock, while supporting a vast range of causes, across the North-East.

“Our aim is for fresh, healthy food to be accessible for everyone, and Neighbourly are helping us to extend this commitment beyond our affordable range of fresh products.”

Neighbourly chief officer, Steve Butterworth, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Aldi on this programme and to help them realise their ambition to benefit those communities local to each and every one of their stores across the UK.

“Food surplus is a challenge Aldi is committed to playing its part to address.

“This approach is critical to ensure surplus food finds its way easily to the good causes supporting those communities that need it most.”

Any local charities in County Durham looking to become an Aldi store partner should email to apply.

The company has not sent any waste to landfill since 2014, and has also pledged to reduce operational food waste by half by 2030 as part of the Friends of Champions 12.3 network.

Aldi has worked with Fareshare and Company Shop since 2012 and is now also partnering with Neighbourly to explore the benefits of more direct relationships within the communities its stores serve.