GRATEFUL families have praised Darlington Building Society for backing a pioneering charity that is distributing fresh food supplies to local community hubs.

The Bread and Butter Thing has so far brought 42 tonnes of food and other basic shopping staples to Darlington that would otherwise have gone to waste – and it could not have happened without Darlington Building Society.

The Bread and Butter Thing was launched in Manchester in 2016 and works on the simple premise of collecting surplus food from supermarkets and other producers, before distributing it to communities.

The support comes in three elements: a fruit and veg bag; a ‘cupboard bag’ containing cereal, bread, eggs, pasta, sauces, and drinks; and a ‘chilled bag’ of milk, meat, snacks, cheese, butter and sausage rolls. Families pay £7.50 for vital supplies that would normally cost at least £35.

Darlington is the charity’s first expansion outside of Greater Manchester, thanks to significant financial support from Darlington Building Society, which donated £20,000 to help buy a van, working in partnership with Darlington Borough Council and Cummins, who are also major supporters of the initiative.

And the timing of The Bread and Butter Thing’s arrival in Darlington could not have been better. Corporation Road School became the first community hub on March 25, just as the coronavirus pandemic was forcing the country into lockdown. Since then, two more hubs have been added – at Red Hall Primary School and Mount Pleasant Primary School on the Branksome estate.

A fourth hub based at Firthmoor Community Centre will open this month and and hopes are high that a fifth will be in place in Darlington by the end of the year.

So far, 100,000 meals have been distributed in Darlington, with a retail value of £70,000 but costing only £15,000. Around 14,000 Easter eggs were also given out locally in April, and there are now aspirations for the charity to expand into Durham and Hartlepool.

Despite the economic challenges of the pandemic, Darlington Building Society has not only honoured its annual pledge to donate five per cent of its profits to good causes in the local community but gone even further. The Society recently made a major commitment to continue sharing five per cent of its profits with the community until 2025 to mark the 200th anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

The £20,000 donated to The Bread and Butter Thing came from this year’s profit share pot and the Society’s CEO, Andrew Craddock, is delighted by the swift impact the initiative has had.

“Darlington Building Society has been at the heart of the community throughout its 164-year history and this is another example of how we can make a real difference during a time when we know local families are facing enormous challenges,” said Mr Craddock.

Mum-of-five Katrina Hawkins, one of the parents benefiting from the scheme at Red Hall, said: “While the kids have been off school, the shopping bill has gone through the roof and this has been an absolute godsend.”

Katrina, whose husband, Ian, is a bus driver, added: “The Bread and Butter Thing has taken some of the pressure off and what Darlington Building Society has done is amazing.”

Her son Jaydn, 11, is also grateful, saying: “I think it’s helped out a lot of local families because obviously food budgets have gone up and the fact that Darlington Building Society have put a lot of money in is really nice – to know that people are caring for the community.”

Pauline Appleby, who also lives on the Red Hall estate, queued up for the food supplies alongside her mother, Angela Catterson. “We struggle as it is around here, but it’s been really, really hard during the lockdown,” said mum-of-four Pauline. “It makes a massive difference and gives you peace of mind that you’ve got some food in and we all really appreciate the support from Darlington Building Society. We couldn’t have managed without that help.”

Red Hall Primary School head teacher, Julie Davidson, said: “It’s a fantastic investment into the Red Hall community at a time when the country went into a lockdown situation. Families who may have been disadvantaged were able to access food supplies by coming to their local school and pick up bags of shopping to keep them going through this difficult period.

“Without the financial support of Darlington Building Society this project just wouldn’t have happened. We wouldn’t have been able to bus this level of food in from Manchester – getting those supplies to this community would have been very difficult.”

Seth Pearson, director of Darlington Partnership and Darlington Cares – two organisations central to The Bread and Butter Thing coming to the town – says the scheme has already surpassed expectations.

“It has been an unequivocal success and is making an enormous difference to struggling families in Darlington,” he said. “This could not have happened without the support of Darlington Building Society working in partnership with Cummins and Darlington Borough Council, their combined contribution was crucial.”

During the latest delivery to Red Hall, Siobhan Brown, Community Development Delivery Officer for the charity, was helped by a team of volunteers from the school to pack bags for around 70 families.

Siobhan said: “The response in Darlington has been really good and there is a very clear need, so we are very grateful for the support from Darlington Building Society. Hopefully, we will continue to grow so we can help more people.”