Coronavirus: It's an unprecedented challenge, warns the Trussell Trust

The trust says food banks might face increased demand if the virus hits people's incomes, and another food bank charity says it will have to cut the size of its packages because of panic buying

A Trussell Trust warehouse (Photograph: Alexandra Smart)
A Trussell Trust warehouse (Photograph: Alexandra Smart)

The Trussell Trust has warned the coronavirus pandemic presents “an unprecedented challenge”, as another food bank charity warned that panic buying had forced it to reduce the size of its packages.

In a statement, the Trussell Trust said it was possible that food banks would face increased demand if the effects of the virus led to a loss of income for large numbers of people, but it was not aware of any food bank in its network that was running out of all foods.

Meanwhile Sufra NW London, a food bank charity in Brent, has launched an emergency appeal because of the outbreak, saying it will have to reduce the amount of food and supplies it gives to each person by a third thanks to concerns about supply.

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said in a statement: “With the spread of coronavirus we all now face an unprecedented challenge and an uncertain future.

“It is possible that food banks will face increased demand as people lose income, at the same time as food donations drop or staff and volunteers are unavailable, because of measures rightly put in place to slow the spread of infection. All of this comes when food banks are already dealing with a record level of need for emergency food.”

The charity said it would continue to monitor the situation closely and encouraged the public to continue donating after checking with their local food banks what items were most needed.

“Food banks sometimes run low on certain items, but we have not heard from any food bank in our network that it is currently running out of all food donations," it said in a statement.

Sufra NW London launched its emergency coronavirus campaign yesterday, saying the virus was the last thing the charity needed when demand for emergency food aid was already at the highest level it had ever seen.

The charity said that panic buying and hoarding meant that many of the essential items, including food and toiletries, that it needed to supply to those using its services were out of stock.

Rajesh Makwana, director of the charity, said it would have to cut the size of its food parcels by a third and supply issues had become “a real cause for concern”.

He said: “We need to make sure that we can sustain our services for people who are desperately in need over the next few months. At the moment we can’t guarantee supplies.

“We have seen a reduction in donations of food, but the majority of the food we supply is purchased and we’re finding it harder to get stuff at supermarkets and wholesalers.

“The wholesalers don’t know when or if they will be able to fulfil our orders. They’re running out of items already.

Makwana said the level of panic buying by people snapping up items they did not need and might not use was frustrating when the charity knew of vulnerable people living in poverty who could not get the things they needed.

The charity was also having to think about the logistics of how to run its services while protecting service users, volunteers and staff, he said.

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