A FOOD programme to help the vulnerable through lockdown has come to an end after delivering more than 20,000 meals.

The Crisis Food Project began in March when the government announced the nationwide lockdown.

The project has provided much needed door to door emergency food, prepared by the Closed Doors Open Hearts project within The Auckland Project in partnership with Health Express.

The scheme has been funded by Durham County Councillors from Bishop Auckland, West Auckland, Shildon, Evenwood and Cockfield and Crook. They donated a combined amount of £76,000 from their neighbourhood budgets towards the initiative.

A further £30,000 was donated by County Durham Community Foundation.

The Northern Echo:

Durham County Councillor for West Auckland Rob Yorke said: “A big thank you to all the local councillors who came together despite of political persuasion to make the project a tremendous success.

“The easiest thing was to secure the funding, thereafter it was the organisation and gathering together the volunteers that were so important to the project.

“We have got to the point now where many of the volunteers have got to know the people they are helping on a first name basis.

"We have gone beyond a service and have become friends, and a lot of the volunteers will be keeping in touch with people.”

Those vulnerable and in need were able to access frozen meals or emergency provision hampers, delivered to their doorstep without the need to break lockdown rules or visit busy supermarkets."

The Northern Echo: Carly Yorke delivering parcels to farmer Sonny DavisCarly Yorke delivering parcels to farmer Sonny Davis

So far the project has delivered more than 20,300 meals and over 750 food hampers across Crook, Bishop Auckland, Trimdon, Shildon, West Auckland and Evenwood and Cockfield.

Farmer Sonny Davis, 91, from Witton Park, has been on his own for two decades since his wife passed away and was among the grateful recipients.

Many volunteers and supporters have helped, including the former district manager of Bishop Auckland fire station, Andy Whitehead, and chairman of the Banks Group, Harry Banks.

Mr Banks said: “I am also pleased that we have many more staff who have been enthusiastically helping out in their own communities whilst at the same time keeping the business operational with essential supplies to the steel and cement producers. This has enabled us to make cash available to back up their community work and to be sure of having jobs for them to come back to."