County Durham charities join forces to provide vital food delivery service during lockdown

Several charities in County Durham have joined forces to provide a vital food delivery service during the lockdown.

Hundreds of meals are being prepared, frozen and then transported to people who can't leave home in the Bishop Auckland area.

The project is funded by local government, charities and benefactors.

The ready made meals are left on the doorsteps of hundreds of homes - at a safe distance, every single day.

Robert Downes, who is nearly 70, is one of the hundreds to benefit. His family do bring him essential shopping, but he says the doorstep deliveries are very helpful:

"It means a lot to me. It means I don't have to go out for a meal every day. If I can't get out I've got something in with a meal and a sweet afterwards."

Behind the scenes in a warehouse, a team of professional chefs cook the meals. From the warehouse, the meals and other essentials are then packed into vans to be dropped off.

Meals that have been prepared in the warehouse Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Workers have been redeployed from The Auckland Project charity, based in Bishop Auckland. David Maddan, from the charity said:

One of the things we do is run a visitor attraction based on the castle at Bishop Auckland. About two weeks ago we had to close it because of coronavirus. We realised we had this big central kitchen which could produce a large number of meals normally for our restaurant and we could do something of use for the community which is facing hardship right now."

David Maddan, The Auckland Project
Meals are packed into vans, ready to be dropped off Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The Auckland Project teamed up with other local charities, pooling knowledge and resources, to make a wider-scale operation. Rob Yorke helps to deliver the food to people's doorsteps:

We're trying to widen the project. At the moment we're doing about 200 miles a day on the minibus but that could easily expand over the next few days and weeks."

Rob Yorke, Health Express

Several distribution centres also exist to help deliveries. One of them is at the Miners' Arms in Coundon, a pub with a new role in the community.

Landlord Chris Bowron is helping out every day, along with seven other volunteers. He said:

The response we've had has been amazing. For all the team that go out delivering frozen meals or other things, people have been crying on the doorstep. I believe the spirit we have, the positivity, once this horrific thing has gone away, the community is going to be in a better place going forward."

Chris Bowron

Vegetables are being planted on the grounds of Auckland Castle for the ingredients to cook the meals.

Andy Nesbitt from The Auckland Project said: ''We should be having a lot of salad crops, early stuff like radishes, chards. We also have some greenhouses which will be producing a bit more. That will help give us a successful harvest throughout the year."

You can watch ITV News Tyne Tees reporter, Jonny Blair's full report here: