A CHARITY is joining forces with organisations across the region to feed thousands of vulnerable individuals and families during the coronavirus crisis.

Since closing the doors of its visitor destination three weeks ago, the Auckland Project has focussed its efforts on helping the Bishop Auckland community.

It has teamed up with the South Durham Enterprise agency and Shildon-based community organisation, Health Express, to provide food for those who need, it via a local distribution network.

The initiative, titled The Auckland Project: Closed Doors, Open Hearts, has already produced more than 10,000 meals for people in the Bishop Auckland and Shildon area, with plans to produce more over the coming weeks.

Funding has been received from County Durham Community Foundation, with support from local elected members and the Bishop Auckland and Shildon Area Action Partnership.

Donations have also been received from regional suppliers, including cardboard manufacturer Durham Box and freezer and washng machine manufacturer Ebac.

The Auckland Project has a three point approach to help people deal with the crisis – growing food produce, cooking meals for home, and working with South Durham Enterprise Agency and Health Express to distribute those meals to the most vulnerable people.

A team of 17 staff and volunteers are working in The Auckland Project’s central kitchen, preparing home cooked and familiar dishes for distribution to those who need them.

The team, which has been in voluntary, self-imposed lockdown since March 17, only travel between home and work to ensure the kitchen remains protected.

Where possible, ingredients have been harvested from The Auckland Project’s gardens, with other supplies coming from catering companies DeliFresh and BidFood.

Referrals are being received from Durham County Council, which is co-ordinating requests for help from individuals and regional organisations, with distribution being carried out via these third parties only, and not directly from The Auckland Project.

Durham County Council has established a helpline, webpage and support network to help vulnerable people in County Durham who are struggling during the Coronavirus pandemic.

For more information, visit durham.gov.uk/covid19help or call the county council on 03000-260260 between 9am until 5pm weekdays and 10am until to 3pm at the weekend.