A Carlisle school headteacher has spoken of the scale of the challenge posed by Covid-19 to the wellbeing of children, as supermarket giant Tesco reveals it has donated more than 360,000 meals to schoolchildren across the county.

Norman Street Primary School in Carlisle is one of a number of schools across Cumbria that has benefitted from a share of the 364,360 free meals donated by Tesco to those in need throughout Cumbria.

The school has been able to launch a food parcel donations service for vulnerable families, much needed throughout the current period of disruption and hardship caused by coronavirus.

Carolyn Murray, Norman Street Primary School's headteacher, said: “These are exceptional circumstances and unlike anything many of us have experienced before.

"I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of Tesco customers and colleagues alike in their dedication to ensure that those most in need within our community have what they need during these trying times.”

The food has been donated through the Community Food Connection scheme it operates with food redistribution charity FareShare.

Every Tesco store in the UK participates in the scheme, which is celebrating five years of helping communities across the country. Each month more than a million meals of food are donated, and to date, a staggering 50 million meals have been donated in total.

Since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, almost 700 new groups have signed up to receive food from the scheme.

FareShare’s chief executive Lindsay Boswell said the scheme, the largest of its kind in the UK and believed to be the largest in Europe, was making a real difference.

“We are delighted that Tesco has reached this milestone – donating the equivalent of 50 million meals is no mean feat and has gone such a long way in supporting thousands of charities and community groups up and down the country,” he said.

“The scheme is a real game-changer for organisations working with the vulnerable, allowing even more people to access good to eat food which would otherwise go to waste.”

The scheme pairs charities and community groups with a local Tesco store.

At the end of each day a store colleague works out which food is likely to be unsold and then uses a specially-developed app to tell a local charity or community group what food can be collected.

Across the UK 7,000 charities and community groups have benefitted from the scheme, with 129 groups currently receiving surplus food from Tesco stores in Cumbria.

Tesco UK CEO Jason Tarry said: “Tesco Community Food Connection has made a real difference to communities. Now that we are five years into the scheme the fact that we have donated 50 million meals allows us to reflect on its success, and the difference the scheme has made not only in feeding people in communities across the UK but also to tackling climate change.

"However, there is more to do, and we are looking at how we can divert even more food from waste in future.”