A LOCAL pub is providing food and essentials for vulnerable people during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Mowden pub on Staindrop Road in Darlington closed its doors to the public inline with the Prime Ministers social distancing restrictions - and landlords Simon and Rachel Leadbetter have set up a family-run delivery service which delivers free, home cooked meals to the doors of people in need around Darlington.

"All I've known for 28 years is catering," said Mr Leadbetter, "my life revolves around feeding people - and so I couldn't just stop one day entirely.

"My personal belief is that we could all do something towards lifting the burden for people in this dark time and therefore cooking for other people seemed like the natural thing to do.

"Rachel and I were also concerned about produce going to waste over the next few months - so the free delivery service provided us a way to make sure that our food was going to a good cause, by feeing those in Darlington who needed it the most."

The couple, with the help from their children, began dropping off meals such as spaghetti bolognaise, casseroles, curries, shepherd's pie and homemade cakes baked by Mrs Leadbetter to those who are isolated at home.

One bag of food is designed to feed two people.

"People began getting in touch, either regarding themselves or on behalf of loved ones, by phone or social media, and it just snowballed from there.

"Me and my wife make deliveries in our car, and the kids go on foot.

"We've delivered to seventy people today, and we've delivered in the hundreds before - which just goes to show the need for the service.

"It's something for us to get our teeth into and focus on too - we aren't the type of folk who can just do nothing.

"It has definitely helped us as a family to remain positive through this rather depressing time, and know that we are doing something to give back to the community which keeps our business going throughout the year."

Even after the Leadbetters' had used up the entity of the kitchen's ingredients, they were still set on continue to feed those in need, and so they set up a fundraising page to appeal for funds towards ingredients.

In just two days, the couple had raised a impressive £2210 through donations.

"That's enough to last us around 8 weeks, which is incredible," said Mr Leadbetter, "and every penny has gone towards purchasing the produce which we need to keep delivering.

"We've been blown away by the generosity of people, and the support from our local customers, who have been especially giving.

"Whilst we don't know how long this lockdown will go on for, at least we can now provide the certainty that we will be able to keep on delivering to the most vulnerable in our community."

Mr Leadbatter said that if the demand for The Mowden meals increases anymore - he'll have to draft in his friends in the culinary business to give him a hand in the kitchen.

"I've got one friend whose a local chef on standby," said Mr Leadbetter, "and he is eager to help wherever he can.

"There is a real community spirit throughout it all - and that's been great to be a part of."