Stagecoach North East is working in partnership with Middlesbrough Foodbank to launch an initiative which offers free travel on buses for its community members following an approach from a local Middlesbrough Councillor.
The local bus operator has shown its support for the great local cause and joined forces to create a bespoke voucher scheme for its services across the Tees Valley, to help assist people who visit the centres with their travel costs.
The voucher, which can be exchanged on all Stagecoach buses in Teesside and Hartlepool, enables anyone who uses the foodbank service in Middlesbrough to travel on a single journey from its seven food bank collection centres throughout Middlesbrough.
Residents who visit the community foodbank can then benefit from a free journey home with their groceries or can travel further afield and enjoy a trip to places in and around Stockton, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool.
The foodbank helps people suffering financial hardship, providing emergency food parcels and putting people in touch with organisations which can provide long-term solutions.
Cllr Matthew Storey, Middlesbrough Councillor for Central Ward, said: “I am delighted that following my approach to Stagecoach North East, they have agreed to start this scheme in Middlesbrough.
“Foodbanks provide vital support to people who are really struggling.
“Often they will have mobility issues or children with them when collecting their food and in any event, travelling from the Foodbank with heavy bags isn’t always easy.
“This excellent community engagement from Stagecoach North East will make a real difference to people who could use a little extra help when they are finding it hard to make ends meet.”
Middlesbrough Foodbank project manager Soroush Sadeghzadeh believes it is the first service of its kind in the area.
He said: “I first heard about a similar project through the Trussell Trust's newsletter where a local bus company had partnered with a local food bank.
“At the time, I thought that such a partnership would really benefit our clients in Middlesbrough and it wasn’t long after that I had a call from Cllr Matthew Storey about Stagecoach North East partnering with us to offer this service.
“I was once in one of our distribution centres and after our volunteers welcomed a mum and her two children, we found out that she had walked over four miles to get to us. If it wasn't for the kindness of volunteers, she would have had to walk back home.
“However, with the generosity of Stagecoach North East, we're now able to offer such a fantastic service to our clients and help us in offering a more holistic support.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in this project, as well as all our generous supporters and volunteers.”
Nathan Stanislawski, Operations Manager at Stagecoach North East’s Teesside depot, said: “We are delighted to support an organisation that provides such a vital community service.
“With the rise in demand for projects of this nature, community food banks are becoming increasingly important and are relied on heavily.
“We hope that it helps people to get around their community and make it that little bit easier to perhaps visit friends or family or enjoy the places and spaces in and around Middlesbrough.”
For further information about Stagecoach North East please visit www.stagecoachbus.com