A north Northumberland charitable community development trust is set to extend its drive to tackle food poverty and access to fresh local produce across the local area with the help of a grant from Newcastle Building Society.

Two years ago, the Glendale Gateway Trust took on responsibility for managing the food bank service in Wooler from the Cheviot Centre community building that it owns and operates in the heart of the town.

Since then, the Centre has acted as a hub for both food donations and the delivery of up to 20 food parcels every week to individuals and families living in the surrounding area.

And now, the Trust is using a £1,000 Newcastle Building Society grant to build a community food larder which will be available for the community to exchange fresh locally-grown produce or items they have an excess of, as well as being a food bank drop-off point.

The new larder is expected to be in place later this year, and the Trust is now looking to increase the team of volunteers that it can call upon to help with its day to day running of the food bank, including deliveries, which already includes staff at the Society’s local branch.

The funding has been provided through the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which offers grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network.

The Glendale Gateway Trust, which celebrated its silver jubilee last year, supports people living in one of the most sparsely populated areas of the country, with a population of just 6,000 people living across 250 square miles of surrounding Northumberland countryside.

The Cheviot Centre opened in 2001, and as well as being the location of Newcastle Building Society’s community branch in the town, it also provides a home for a range of services, including the local library, tourist information centre and police.

The Trust is currently developing plans with local community groups to broaden the fresh food provision in Glendale, as well as working with a local log bank to address fuel poverty issues.

Gemma Douglas, Project Officer at the Glendale Gateway Trust, says: “We’ve seen demand for the food bank steadily increase over the last couple of years. The pandemic has highlighted a demand for this service in Glendale.

“We receive a lot of donations for the food bank at Cheviot Centre, but we also want to have somewhere green fingered members of the community can share and exchange their excess produce, separately to the food bank.

“We believe installing a food larder outside the building would be the perfect way to do this and will also enable us to increase the amount of fresh goods we put into the food parcels.

“We have a great team of volunteers who help us deliver the food bank’s services across the community, including members of the Society’s Cheviot Centre team, but we’d love to see even more people coming forward and getting involved this year.

“The larder would have remained a much longer-term goal without the Society’s help, and we think it will help us make an even big difference across our community.”

A £15,000 Newcastle Building Society grant enabled the Glendale Gateway Trust to carry out essential repairs to the Cheviot Centre’s glazed atrium roof and re-carpet the building in advance of the Society’s opening its branch in the building in February 2020.

Siobhan Younger, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Wooler branch, adds: “We see first hand just how much the Trust contributes to the well-being of people in Wooler and the wider community, as well as the generosity of the local community who support the food bank’s work.

“This is a great way for us to mark our second anniversary in the Cheviot Centre and we can’t wait to see the new larder being put in place, as well as all the other plans in development.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has contributed over £2.1m in grants and partnerships to a wide variety of charities and projects across the region, including the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Prince’s Trust.

The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.