A food waste diversion project in Chester-le-Street has stepped up to offer valuable support to its community through the Covid:19 pandemic thanks to support from Karbon Homes.
REfUSE, a not-for-profit social enterprise, which collects and rescues food that would otherwise go to waste and redirects it towards the local community through its community café and community fridge, had different plans for how it was going to spend the £8,500 grant it had secured from Karbon’s ‘Investing in Communities’ grant scheme.
The grant was initially secured to fund a supported volunteering project at the café, designed to help people who may need that extra bit of support getting back into a working environment.
However, when the Covid:19 pandemic hit, the project saw a real opportunity to help its local community and with the support of Karbon was able to redirect the funding in order to offer support.
Since mid-March, REfUSE has been working with partners in the area, such as the council, social services and other charities, to redirect the whopping 25 tonnes of food that have been collected and rescued to those who were in most in need.
Since the start of lockdown the volunteers have put together and delivered over 2,300 boxes of food to households around County Durham, catering for over 3,800 people.
The project has also been making around 200 hot meals a day for people who can’t afford fuel to cook with or who are living in hostels with few facilities.
Mim Skinner is the Director at REfUSE.
“The need has been huge over the past months. It’s been really hard to see. We were arriving at houses with a delivery and a little kid would run out shouting, ‘Mummy! Food!
“Many of the recipients were living with illness or disabilities, meaning they were unable to leave the house, had experienced job or income loss due to the pandemic, which was making finding money for food difficult, or were experiencing poor mental health because of the situation.
“We’re so please we were able to offer this level of support to our community and we’re very thankful to Karbon for their backing. It’s great to have a funder who appreciates the twists and turns and is happy to be flexible to what’s needed.”
The project, who’s mantra is ‘let’s feed bellies, not bins’, has a ‘Pay As You Feel’ café in Chester-le-Street, designed to allow customers to pay either with money or by pledging time and skills.
The café has recently reopened to the public after the pandemic with normal services starting to resume slowly.