The Cumberland building society is donating £223,000 to tackle food poverty in Cumbria and parts of Lancashire.

Last year, the team at The Cumberland donated £250,000 to the cause - their largest ever charitable donation - after research revealed that food poverty was among the top concerns for those who live in the area.

Spiralling numbers at Foodbanks in Cumbrian towns were showing a 30 per cent upshot in demand, with a 75 per cent surge in people using rural food banks.

The building society rolled out its 'Kinder Kind of Kitchen' project in June 2023, partnering with the charity FareShare Lancashire and Cumbria, operated by Recycling Lives Charity.

The charity distributed the donation to its network of community food projects across both Cumbria and Lancashire.

The last 12 months have seen 52 projects supported, the equivalent of 577,047 meals served, 242 tonnes of food saved from waste and redistributed to those in need, and four tonnes of pet food saved from waste and redistributed.

It also saw three tonnes of toiletries and baby food saved and redistributed, and 66 fridges donated from the Cumberland to food projects throughout both counties.

Claire Deekes, chief customer officer at The Cumberland, said: “It was humbling to visit the food projects, meet volunteers and see first-hand the vital support they provide to local people and how our donation helped them continue or even expand their work.

“This year it is clear once again that many people are struggling to afford the basics, and demand remains high at Cumbrian food projects, so we took the decision to continue the Kinder Kind of Kitchen initiative and extend its reach.

“We are a mutual, owned by our members, and looking out for our communities is really important to us.”

The programme is continuing for the second year and is extending its reach into southwest Scotland.

£27,000 will be donated to FareShare Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

This will increase the sum to be invested towards lifting food poverty in the Cumberland’s operating area to £250,000.

Alasdair Jackson OBE, chief executive of Recycling Lives Charity & Social Enterprise, said: “The Cumberland’s Kinder Kind of Kitchen initiative has been a really exciting collaboration.

“We know the struggles our members have faced in recent years – demand is ever-increasing. Initiatives like this are helping us all to meet this need and make sure people don’t go hungry.

“The groups we deliver food to are incredible, making such enormous difference to their communities.

"We’re really pleased to have been able to extend the Kinder Kind of Kitchen initiative thanks to the Cumberland’s generosity.”

Among the projects which benefitted from last year's donations is St Barnabas food bank in Carlisle.

Volunteer Diane Johnston, said: "I know what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet at times.

"I have used the foodbank at St Barnabas in the past. It not only gave me vital supplies for me and my teenage daughter, it helped me realise we were not on our own.

“We don’t just offer food at St Barnabas, we offer support, friendship and care.

"We are supporting more than 50 families and the donations we receive from FareShare Lancashire and Cumbria are a lifeline.”

Dazzle, a non-profit project in Barrow, could expand its work due to The Cumberland’s Kinder Kind of Kitchen.

Damion Burns, a director of Dazzle, said: “We provide people with bread, fruit and vegetables.

"So many have become dependent on the service.

"It’s not only those out of work. We get people in work who are struggling to make ends meet.”

The Cumberland’s assistance through FareShare Lancashire and Cumbria also supported Dazzle’s community café that offers low-cost meals.

Kendal People’s Café and Food LarderKendal People’s Café and Food Larder (Image: Supplied)

Among others who've benefitted from the initiative are the Kendal People’s Café and Food Larder, and Calderwood House homeless hostel in Egremont.

Resident Neil McLaughlin cooks for his fellow residents.

He said: "Coming to Calderwood House has, quite literally, saved my life.

"I have found my family again - and I am starting to believe in myself and look forward to the future with hope."

The Cumberland, in partnership with both FareShare Lancashire and Cumbria, and FareShare Glasgow and the West of Scotland, will publish 'The Kinder Cookbook.'

It will showcase recipes shared by organisers and volunteers from food projects across the region.