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Coronavirus: First food parcels delivered to vulnerable people in self-isolation in government ‘shielding’ operation

Boxes of cereal, fruit, pasta, tea bags and toilet roll left on doorsteps across UK

Peter Stubley
Sunday 29 March 2020 02:30 BST
Coronavirus: Plan for 'community hubs' to help vulnerable people unveiled

Thousands of people deemed the most vulnerable to the coronavirus have begun receiving free food parcels as part of the government’s “social shielding” strategy.

The first consignment of 2,000 boxes containing pasta, cereal, fruit, tea bags and toilet roll were left on doorsteps to help those who cannot leave their homes.

Another 50,000 are expected to go out over the next seven days and officials say they could ramp it up to hundreds of thousands per week if required.

Up to 1.5m people across the UK are being asked to “shield” themselves from contact with other people because severe health conditions such as leukaemia, cystic fibrosis and kidney disease put them at higher risk.

The packages are targeted at those who have no support network of family or friends to help them get supplies during the 12-week isolation period.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick MP claimed it was “the scale of an operation like that has not been seen since the Second World War”.

“This weekend sees the start of extraordinary steps to support the most clinically vulnerable, while they shield from coronavirus,” added Mr Jenrick, who took part in a photocall during a delivery of boxes in Tonbridge, Kent, on Saturday.

“We will support these people at this difficult time. This is an unprecedented package of support and I want to thank the food suppliers, local councils and everyone who has come together to create this essential service in just a matter of days.”

The government said it had sent letters to 900,000 vulnerable people about the shielding policy, but admitted another 600,000 are not on a national register and will have to be informed by their GPs.

Deliveries of groceries and essential household items are being coordinated by food distributors, supermarkets, local government and voluntary groups. Medicines will be also delivered by community pharmacies.

Andrew Selley and Hugo Mahoney, the respective chief executives of the UK’s two largest food distributors, Bidfood and Brakes, said they were “proud to join forces and play such a vital role in supporting people in need during their period of isolation”.

However, there are concerns that a surge in demand for food and household items during the pandemic could leave the poorest in society to go hungry.

The Independent is campaigning to help the hungry across Britain. Food banks are more stretched than ever by the coronavirus pandemic, while job losses and self-isolation for the vulnerable mean they are needed more than ever.

But you can help – below is a list of food banks and charities in need of money, food donations and volunteers.

If you are a food charity in need of help, get in touch with us at to be added to this list.

London Food Alliance

In the capital, The Felix Project – along with FareShare and City Harvest – have formed the London Food Alliance to distribute surplus food to community hubs in every London borough. From there, volunteers will sort through the produce and deliver it to the doorsteps of the vulnerable. We are supporting their work in collaboration with the Evening Standard. The London Food Alliance needs money to coordinate the food deliveries – follow this link to help.

Trussell Trust

There are more than 1,200 food banks across the UK supported by the Trussell Trust. You can find information on giving money or food, as well as how to volunteer, here.

Independent Food Aid Network

The charity oversees 834 independent food banks in Britain. To find out more about grassroots food aid providers near you – and how to help them – visit their website.


The UK’s biggest food redistribution charity, FareShare, takes food that cannot be sold in shops because of overproduction or packing errors, then passes it on to food banks, hospices, homeless hostels and other charities. The charity needs volunteers for its warehouses, vans and offices across the UK – find out more.

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