THESE grim times really are bringing out the best and the worst in people – but let’s start by spreading some good news.

The Bread and Butter Thing (TBBT) was launched in Darlington last week and it could not have come at a better time. Over the past week, 100 hard-pressed families have had free supplies of fresh food that would otherwise have gone to waste, and the initiative will grow in the weeks, months and, hopefully, years to come.

The idea took root in Manchester in 2016 and is beautifully simple. Surplus food, mainly from supermarkets, is collected by the charity and distributed at community hubs to members. The Darlington scheme is the first expansion outside of Greater Manchester.

Corporation Road Primary School has become the first Darlington hub, with head teacher Ann Pringleton the driving force, and funding coming through a three-way partnership between Darlington Building Society, Cummins, and the borough council.

Speaking immediately after the launch – carried out amid careful social distancing – the charity’s chief executive Mark Game said: “It’s been amazing. We’ve had a team of about 12 here and they’ve absolutely nailed it.

“We see this very much as a stepping-stone because we want to expand across the Tees Valley. This is just the start. Within six months, we will be operating five days a week at different locations.”

The partners have funded a van to collect the food and the first 100 families were able to pick up three bags of free food. After the first week, the food and other store cupboard staples – worth £35 – will cost just £7.50.

One of the volunteers at the launch, the school’s deputy head teacher, Garth McManus, said: “This is massive for the families in the community. It’s crazy that so much food ends up in the bin but with this initiative, it gets to the right people in the community.”

Assistant head teacher, Pam Sayer, added: “Our head teacher is so passionate about the children that we went down to Manchester to see The Bread and Butter Thing in operation and decided we had to bring it to Darlington. There’s tons of need in this area and it’s a tremendous boost for the community.”

The director of Darlington Partnership, Seth Pearson, who has also been heavily involved, described it as “lifeline”.

“It has taken a year of planning to get to this point, but it will grow and grow, and I have no doubt it will transform lives,” he said.

The Bread and Butter Thing is very good news – spread the word.

  • More Darlington hubs will be announced soon. In the meantime, those interested in using the service need to register as members at

ALL of which brings me to a telephone call from my 88-year-old Mum which brought tears to my eyes.

She’s living in isolation at home in Teesville, Middlesbrough, and someone had anonymously left a big bag of bread, milk, butter, cheese, fruit and vegetables, and a cream cake on her doorstep. Other elderly neighbours had opened their doors to the same lovely surprise.

After I posted a thank you to “whoever you are” on social media, word came back that the good samaritan was a fella called Mike Hind, who has since gone on to make local radio and newspaper headlines as an emerging community hero.

Before the coronavirus crisis struck, Mike, 36, was successfully running the Mas Body Gym, at South Bank, as well as a nutritious “meal prep” company called Macro Based Diner.

He obviously knew what he was doing with health and fitness because he’d won the title “United Kingdom Best Personal Trainer” three years in a row.

When the pandemic hit, and the gym had to be closed down, Mike made a pledge to use all the profits from his meal prep company to deliver bags of food to elderly and vulnerable people as well as NHS staff and other key workers.

The ten staff from the gym – all of them 25 and under – were kept on the payroll and employed as packers,while father-of-three Mike took to his van to make sure the food got to the right people.

“The way I look at it is that I wouldn’t be where I am with my businesses without the support of local people – so I want to do what I can to support them during this difficult time,” Mike told me.

The Northern Echo:

For weeks now, he’s been giving away up to £700 worth of food and care packages a day, making the most of his relationships with cash-and-carry outlets. In addition to the food bags, he’s also been delivering an average of 90 ready-made meals a night to NHS staff at James Cook University Hospital, as well as donating personal protection masks.

He’s been starting at 7am and often finishing at 11pm, vowing to continue as long as his profits from the meal prep company last.

Unbeknown to me, Mike lives around the corner from my Mum and while writing this, I was interrupted by another call from her to say a second delivery had been left on her doorstep. She is completely overwhelmed by Mike’s kindness and so am I.

When I called him to say thank you, he said: “Listen, I was always brought up to respect the elderly and I want my kids to do the same. Your Mum was my postlady for years – she delivered my mail in all weathers, so it’s the least I can do to make a few deliveries of food while all this is going on.”

Mike, every one of your deliveries is first-class, and your care for others is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

AND so the worst is kept to last. I had another telephone call just ahead of the lockdown, telling me that my Mum’s brother – my dear old Uncle Don – had been burgled at his home in London while he was visiting a friend.

He’s 90 years old and they’d pulled out his drawers and torn down his shelves. The police said they were too busy to come out so he was left to deal with the mess himself.

But even in adversity, that generation have a way of looking on the bright side of life: “I’m just tidying it all up room by room – at least I’ve got 12 weeks to do it,” he said.

Yes, the lockdown is bringing out the best and worst in people. But I’ll tell you this  - for every scumbag there are a million kind-hearted people out there.

Stay safe everyone.