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Coronavirus: UK food banks running out of supplies as people stockpile and donations fall

‘The need for charitable food aid is already increasing regardless of the spread of coronavirus ... If donations dwindle or if volunteers are unwell, food banks may be unable to help,’ says food bank network

Kate Ng
Wednesday 11 March 2020 10:31 GMT
NHS England ramps up Coronavirus testing

Coronavirus-related panic buying is hitting the UK’s food banks, which are running low on basic supplies and have seen a fall in donations.

Staples such as long-life milk, cereal and pasta are getting increasingly difficult to purchase, according to the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) coordinator, Sabine Goodwin.

Other food banks have seen donations fall and are anticipating this to continue as the coronavirus outbreak progresses.

Ms Goodwin said some of its 232 members have had to ration their food parcel contents in order to compensate for the lack of donations and called for the UK government to “take responsibility for worsening poverty”.

“Emergency food aid providers cannot keep picking up the pieces and supporting more and more people let down by a broken benefits system and insufficient wages,” she said.

“The need for charitable food aid is already increasing regardless of the spread of coronavirus. Over 830 independent food banks in the UK usually operate fragile systems dependent on goodwill and generosity both in terms of food supply and staffing.

“If donations dwindle or if volunteers are unwell, food banks may be unable to help adults and children going hungry.”

She added: “The spread of coronavirus can only deepen Britain’s food insecurity crisis and it’s the millions of people living on low or no incomes who will inevitably suffer the most.”

The Sufra food bank in Stonebridge, north-west London, usually provides people in need with the equivalent of 9,500 food parcels a year but is “fast running out” of basics such as toilet roll, pasta and long-life milk.

Director Rajesh Makwana said: “All indications are that this will be a prolonged crisis, over a period of weeks/months so we need to make sure we can support people through that.

“We are desperately trying to source food and toiletries, but in the meantime the only way we can guarantee that people have access to the essentials they need is by rationing what we provide.

“So we are reducing our food parcels by about a third at least in order to make sure that we’ve got enough to see us through this crisis.”

Mr Makwana added the food bank has seen a “massive increase” in demand this year. In a statement on Tuesday, he confirmed the food bank will shift to a delivery model for majority of its users and its Community Kitchen is now operating on a take-away basis.

“But this is just the tip of the iceberg,” he warned. “All the indications are that the UK is on the precipice of a recession, which will mean that financial donations to the charity will also start drying up while demand for food aid rises.

“Add to this the impact of austerity and universal credit and you can see why this really is the perfect storm.”

Economists warned recently the outbreak of coronavirus could push Europe into a recession as businesses and consumer confidence takes a major hit.

Global markets plunged earlier this week after oil prices dropped by almost a third for the first time in decades, wiping billions off companies.

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