During the initial COVID-19 national lockdown, REfUSE delivered more than 5,000 cooked meals in the County Durham community.

Focusing on vulnerable families and individuals, the community interest company used a £5,000 grant from County Durham Community Foundation to transform their usual work into a huge outreach project.

Nikki Dravers, from REfUSE said: “We helped a lady today who was a single mum of-five and has asthma so is unable to leave the house to get food. She is really struggling with her mental health so we delivered a food parcel to her and will continue to do so every week. We also delivered five Easter eggs for the children which they were very grateful for.”

“With thanks to your funding we are able to reach clients who would otherwise be going without food.”

“We have now delivered grocery parcels to 1,688 people and distributed 5,011 cooked meals since the beginning of the isolation.”

“The deliveries have been a chance to visit those who’ve been in need of other support too.”

“We’ve been working with social services, other charities, probation, the NHS and the fire service to make sure we can help meet the needs of those in crisis; from nappies, baby formula and craft materials to gas and electric cards and a listening ear.”

REfUSE started out in Chester-le-Street 4 years ago, with a mission to end shocking levels of food waste and instead bring delicious meals to the community.

The CIC started by opening a community café on the town’s high street, with a ‘pay as you feel’ policy. Before lockdown they also ran pop-up restaurant events, campaigns, school projects and a grocery box scheme in County Durham – all using food destined for landfill.

Since lockdown, the café has had to close and all fundraising events have been cancelled meaning a loss of income of more than £10,000, and a rise in food poverty.