A North Tyneside food redistribution project is improving its recipe for success with the help of a four-figure grant from Newcastle Building Society.

St Paul’s Community Partnership in Willington Quay runs a weekly FairShare scheme, where food donated by local retailers and collected from a range of other local sources is made available for people in need across the community to collect free of charge from its George Street centre.

The partnership has been increasing the range of products available via the FairShare scheme, with toys, toiletries and baby clothes recently being added to the list.

With limited storage space available, the charity was struggling to organise so many generous donations and risked losing track of all available items.

But now, thanks to a £1,000 Newcastle Building Society grant, St Paul’s has been able to buy a series of sturdy metal storage units which have allowed the room to be properly organised and made it easier for food products to be made available in date order, so that nothing goes out of date without being used.

The funding is being 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.

Founded in 2009, St Paul’s Community Partnership was set up to build on the work done by the clergy and parishioners at St Paul’s Church and is responsible for a diverse range of different community improvement projects.

It runs a care and craft group for older people, a weekly lunch club and a choir, while the members of its Happy Chappies men’s group regularly cook meals that are distributed via the Fair Share service.

The St Paul’s Centre also hosts the local Guides and Brownies packs, kids’ and youth clubs and a digital drop-in group where people can get help and advice to access the internet, improve their digital skills, update CVs, take online courses and undertake job-search.

A veterans’ group is also set to start in the near future, with all its activities being supported by a team of committed volunteers.

Rev Sue McCormack of St Paul’s Community Partnership says: “The St Paul’s Centre is the only community building in Willington Quay and we try to make as much use of it as we can to the benefit of local residents.

“We originally started our FairShare project before the pandemic, and as it was clear that local demand for it was both significant and growing, we brought it back as soon as we safely could.

“Our ethos is ‘take what you need, give what you can’ – anyone in the local community can come along to pick up whatever they need to keep them going, and if we see a need arising for specific items, we try to do what we can to meet it.

“We get a huge amount of support from right across the community, from our two local Tesco stores and the Tin On The Wall scheme through to members of our church community, the local Labour Party group and even one kind person who regularly pays for an Asda delivery to be made to the Centre.

“The rising demand we’re experiencing has been matched by the generosity of our supporters, but we’ve consequently seen our store room getting fuller and fuller, which has made it harder to manage what we have on offer and to arrange things as efficiently as we’d like.

“The storage units have made a terrific difference to the way in which we can manage our FairShare stores and there’s no way we could have afforded to buy them on our own, so we’re hugely grateful for the support that Newcastle Building Society has given us.”

Helen Palmer from Newcastle Building Society’s Bedford Street branch in North Shields adds: “The breadth of the work that the Community Partnership undertakes across our area is hugely impressive and the positive impact it has on the lives of local people is immeasurable.

“Tackling food insecurity in our communities has been one of the key themes of our charitable work over the last two years and we’re very pleased to be able to support St Paul’s work in this area.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has also 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.