A longstanding North Tyneside charity is extending its efforts to tackle food poverty across local communities with the help of a four-figure grant from Newcastle Building Society.

The Cedarwood Trust runs a wide range of services, daily activities and support groups on the Meadow Well Estate in North Shields which are accessed by around 25,000 people every year.

Addressing and reducing issues around food insecurity is one of the charity’s key priorities, with around 63,000 meals being provided to local people since the beginning of the pandemic and a new subscription service enabling users to access food supplies at a far lower cost than in the shops.

The £3,000 Newcastle Building Society grant has now enabled the Trust to enhance the training opportunities available within its kitchen academy for local young people wanting to learn new workplace and life skills, as well as to extend its opening hours to enable more people to visit its Avon Avenue premises.

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.

Established in 1980, the Cedarwood Trust works to provide an inclusive, safe and supportive space for all the residents of the Meadow Well Estate, although its services are also accessed by people living right across the North of Tyne area.

Its team of social support advisors have dealt with around 37,000 different interventions over the last year, while its free early years sessions are helping more than 200 families with toddlers that have been unable to interact with each other during the pandemic learn how to play together.

The Trust manages a number of services on behalf of different local authorities which are led by its 11-strong team.

CEO Wayne Dobson says: “The pandemic has seen a huge shift in food insecurity, especially when schools were closed and children were unable to access the lunches that are so important to their well-being, so we developed a range of different responses to ensure people can get the help they need when they need it.

“We’ve worked with local supplier to set up a food subscription service that provides its members with fifteen pounds’ worth of goods for a fee of just four pounds, which stops users reaching crisis point and gives them both choice and dignity in their shopping.

“Our kitchen academy provides opportunities for local young people to develop skills that will be useful for the whole of their lives, but also offers access to affordable, high-quality meals to anyone that needs them.

“Many of those who would benefit from visiting us are working during the day, so we’ve extended our hours to ensure that we’re available when they need us.

“Newcastle Building Society’s generous support in enabling us to do this means we can direct the money we would otherwise have had to spend towards other priorities and means we’re able to reach more people in need more often.”

Lyndsey Black, customer advisor at Newcastle Building Society’s Bedford Street branch in North Shields, adds: “The breadth of the Cedarwood Trust’s work across our community is remarkable and it touches the lives of tens of thousands of local families.

“Tackling food poverty has been one of the priorities for the Society’s grant-giving programme this year and we’re proud to be supporting the incredible work being done by the Trust team.”

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.