A new community pantry and food bank will open its doors to County Durham residents next week.

East Durham Rural Corridor Area Action Partnership (AAP), one of Durham County Council’s 14 AAPs, has donated more than £11,000 to the Coxhoe and Area Community Pantry.

Targeting those in Coxhoe and its surrounding villages, the pantry aims to support residents in need and help to reduce food wastage by distributing surplus affordable food.

In addition to £11,390 received from the AAP’s Area Budget, the project has received a £3,000 boost through the Neighbourhood Budgets of local Members, Cllrs Stuart Dunn and Maura McKeon.

This will allow the pantry to operate from Coxhoe Village Hall for the next 18 months, opening on Mondays (from 1 March), from 9.30am to 11.30am, and Thursdays, from 5pm to 7pm (from 11 March).

Using surplus food donated from FareShare and the Coop, residents will be able to use a pay-as-you-feel model for any food purchased.

Anyone in need will also be able to access a food bank which will be part of the County Durham Christian Partnership network, the largest in County Durham. The food bank operates on a referral system, whereby people are referred through an agency such as Citizens Advice and are able to access three days of emergency food support.

Although people can attend at any time during the opening hours, coronavirus secure measures must be followed at all times.

Volunteer drivers are also on hand to support residents with food deliveries, if they cannot access the village hall themselves.

Jane Bellis, East Durham Rural Corridor AAP coordinator, said: “This is a welcome addition to the great work and volunteering that is already going on in Coxhoe and the surrounding areas and is much needed during the coronavirus pandemic. Thank you to everyone that is involved.”

Karen Williams, Coxhoe Village Hall’s manager, said: “Coxhoe and Area Community Pantry aspires to operate for the benefit of our community, offering a fit for purpose centre which sources and shares surplus affordable food with those currently experiencing food insecurities. It will also enable everyone involved to help our environment by reducing food wastage.

“We are delighted that the AAP has contributed funding, along with Cllrs Dunn and McKeon, Coxhoe Parish Council and Coxhoe Village Hall, to allow this project to launch next week. We have all worked in partnership, alongside one of our volunteers, Sarah Heslop, to create this and help meet the needs of people in the local area.”

Cllr Brian Stephens, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: “Although we continue to face challenges caused by the impact of the pandemic, this pantry is an excellent example of one of the many projects launching to support residents in need across County Durham.

“We are incredibly grateful to everyone who is giving their time to support this and their communities, proving that help will always be on hand.”

Contact details for East Durham Rural Corridor AAP, alongside the county’s 13 other AAPs, can be found at www.durham.gov.uk/aaps

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