Dozens of older and vulnerable people in Darlington are being kept well fed during lockdown thanks to the work of a local charity and support from a regional renewable energy firm.

Age UK North Yorkshire & Darlington usually runs a number of regular community cafes and lunch clubs in the town which help to bring older people together and enable them to get a hot two course meal for five pounds.

But in response to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the urgent needs of the many older local residents who are shielding at home, the charity has set up a new meals on wheels service which is now reaching up to 120 people every day.

A £1,000 grant from the community benefits fund linked to Banks Renewables’ nearby Moor House wind farm has enabled Age UK North Yorkshire & Darlington to increase the capacity of its new service and provide more meals to those that need them.

The meals are delivered by a team of Age UK North Yorkshire & Darlington volunteers, with service adaptations and social distancing procedures in place to ensure there is no risk of exposure to the virus along the way.

The volunteers are also using the visits to check on the well-being of their service users, to provide information and advice on the evolving situation and to try to identify any additional needs they might have.

Age UK North Yorkshire & Darlington provides a wide range of services for people aged 50+ across an area which includes Richmondshire, Northallerton, Ripon, Skipton and Harrogate, as well as Darlington, and is continuing to run its telephone advice and befriending services during the pandemic.

Jonathan Ratcliffe, marketing officer at Age UK North Yorkshire & Darlington, says: “Our lunch clubs and community cafes are always popular, but having lost the ability to run them and with so many older people suddenly having to stay at home, we quickly realised that we needed to change what we offered.

“The idea is to help keep well people well, which a hot meal certainly helps to do, and having this direct contact with vulnerable residents also helps our volunteers check if there’s any other help that they need or any new issues arising that might otherwise go unseen.

“Being able to use the Moor House fund grant to support more people in need is making a real difference in the community at the most difficult of times and we’ve had lots of very positive feedback from our service users.”

Wind farm operator Banks Renewables agreed with the Moor House Wind Farm community fund committee members to temporarily relax the eligibility criteria in response to the impact of the pandemic and extend the area within which grants can be made.

Grants from the Moor House fund, which is administered by the County Durham Community Foundation, totalling almost £10,000 have been quickly awarded to local projects within the last few weeks after being identified by local councillors as suitable projects to support.

Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at the Banks Group, adds: “The Age UK North Yorkshire & Darlington team is doing a fantastic job in helping older local people stay safe and well, and supporting their meals service is an ideal way for money from the Moor House fund to be used.

“We’re grateful for the support of the chair of the Moor House Wind Farm Community Fund Committee, Councillor Brian Jones, and the other members of the local fund panel who agreed to move quickly to support projects that are having a terrific impact on their respective communities.”

The Moor House wind farm will generate more than £750,000 of local community funding over its 25-year lifespan and has been operational since the start of 2018.

It generates over 36,470 MW of green electricity every year, which is enough to meet the annual energy requirements of more than 9,350 homes, and by doing so, displaces almost 12,700 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the electricity supply network per annum.