With a sample of the Happy Hampers are, back left to right, Joanne Rayson, Morrisons Community Champion, Phil Baty, Morrisons Operations Manager, Martin Middleton, Toys N Tech and Conor Mulholland, Mulholland’s Butchers. Front – Donna Lund, Newtown Primary School, Engagement and Wellbeing Officer and Tracey Turnbull, Manager of First Steps Day Nursery.

A school and nursery-led hamper scheme supported by generous businesses is helping families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Christmas and New Year pick-me-up is providing 30 families in Carlisle with a fresh weekly hamper to cut shopping bills and make the festive period a special occasion.

Happy Hampers was the brainchild of staff at Cumbria Education Trust’s Newtown Primary School and its neighbour, First Steps Day Nursery.

Newtown’s Donna Lund said they wanted to help families whose income has been hit by redundancy, furlough or reduction in working hours.

They secured funding from Cumbria Community Foundation, Cumbria County Council, Carlisle City Council and bakers Greggs. Carlisle-based Toys N Tech, Great Orton butchers Mulholland’s and Morrisons are supporting by providing produce and gifts at reduced cost.

The hamper scheme runs for 10 weeks and includes fresh produce and recipes for two hearty meals, and stocking fillers. They also include recipe cards, information on winter support and details about what is on offer in the local community.

Donna, who is Engagement and Wellbeing Officer at the primary school, said: “It’s at times like these when people become extremely kind. I can’t thank everyone involved enough, we have been overwhelmed by the support.

“The pandemic has been difficult for us all in so many ways. The families that we want to help are the ones who are not entitled to any help from the government but who, through no fault of their own, are struggling to pay the bills.”

Joint co-ordinator Tracey Turnbull, Manager of First Steps Day Nursery on Raffles Avenue, said: “Fanilies have been so appreciative of the generosity. It’s providing a real morale boost at the end of a difficult year and will hopefully alleviate some of the pressure most families feel in January.”

One delighted hamper scheme recipient said: “Everybody has been affected by covid in one way or another and the local businesses are spreading a little cheer. It will make the next few weeks a little easier and we are extremely grateful.”

A second added: “Since moving to Carlisle it’s been very difficult and we have run out of savings. This project has helped a great deal. Without it we would have been in so much more trouble so thank you to everyone involved.”