A Bishop Auckland bakery is resuming production to help feed the local community during the Coronavirus crisis.

Longstaff’s Family Bakers and Coffee Shop on Newgate Street closed temporarily last month, in line with Government guidelines surrounding COVID-19.

Now, the family-run firm is firing up its ovens once again, in support of The Auckland Project: Closed Doors, Open Hearts initiative.

Run by The Auckland Project regeneration charity, the scheme is supplying hundreds of frozen meals and emergency food parcels every day, to people across the Bishop Auckland and Shildon area, via a series of community distribution hubs.

Longstaff’s, which has been serving the town for more than 25 years, is now baking fresh bread to be distributed within the emergency food parcels, which also contain a selection of fruit and vegetables, as well as store cupboard staples such as pasta.

“When we heard about how the Closed Doors, Open Hearts initiative was serving the local community we couldn’t wait to be involved,” said Emma Longstaff.

“While we are not able to re-open to the public just yet, this is a great way for us to continue serving the town as we have done since 1994, and we are proud to be playing our part.”

The Auckland Project: Closed Doors Open Hearts initiative, which launched in early April, has already produced around 10,000 meals and emergency food parcels for residents across Bishop Auckland, Shildon and Coundon.

The meals are created by The Auckland Project’s catering team and then distributed in partnership with Health Express and South Durham Enterprise Agency via a series of hubs within the community.

Funding for the project has been received from County Durham Community Foundation, with further support sought from Local Elected Members and the Bishop Auckland and Shildon Area Action Partnership.

Public donations have also been received to help purchase ingredients, while a number of local suppliers have shown their support by donating equipment or, like Longstaff’s, providing ingredients at cost.

Ant Brown, Culinary Director at The Auckland Project, said: “We have been overwhelmed by the support received for Closed Doors, Open Hearts so far and are grateful to all our partners, suppliers and public donors who are helping to make it happen.

“This is making a real difference to people across the Bishop Auckland and Shildon area and it is fantastic to see the community spirit shining through.”

Local suppliers, wishing to get involved with The Auckland Project: Closed Doors, Open Hearts initiative can contact Culinary Director, Ant Brown on ant.brown@aucklandproject.org.  There is a particular need for store cupboard staples such as dried pasta and tinned goods, as well general ingredients for the kitchen including meat, dairy products and fresh vegetables.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to help purchase ingredients for the meals and food trays, can do so online at aucklandproject.org

For more information about the support available to help vulnerable people in County Durham during the Coronavirus pandemic visit http://www.durham.gov.uk/covid19help or call 03000 260260.  Lines are open 9.00am until 5.00pm weekdays and 10.00am until to 3.00pm on weekends.