Foodbanks straining to support families in crisis - and panic buyers aren‘t helping

Mike Beckett, CEO of Colchester Foodbank Picture: ARCHANT

Mike Beckett, CEO of Colchester Foodbank Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Foodbanks across Suffolk and Essex are under ever-increasing pressure as panic buying strips supermarket shelves of would-be food donations.

Colchester Foodbank, part of the Trussel Trust foodbanks, has seen an unprecedented wave of demand for March.

The charity is usually busiest in December, when the volume of donations and food parcels can be as much a double any other month of the year.

Chief Executive Mike Beckett said: “This is the busiest we have ever been, it’s like Christmas week.

“Nothing about this situation is normal. We have had to change all our policies for our volunteers this week because many of them are over 70 or self-isolating.

“Our Wivenhoe and North Station foodbanks have had to close because we haven’t got the volunteers to run them at the moment.

“There’s restrictions on what people can buy in the supermarkets so that affects what they can give to us.

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“With the public’s support we will be able to meet the demand and the public have never let us down before.”

Foodbanks are being tested to their limits this week as jobs are lost and businesses shut down due to Covid-19.

Business relief packages and salary support have been offered by the government to mitigate the damage.

However, the charities are still having to find resources to deliver hundreds of food parcels a week.

Mr Beckett added: “Normally we would see job centres giving out foodbank vouchers for people that need them but they’re closed right now.

“Right now if you need one you are able to go to your local councillors.”

Ipswich foodbank Families in Need (FIND) cited similar problems earlier this week.

Founder Maureen Reynel MBE said: “It’s a really sad situation. My volunteers are going to supermarkets to collect donations and they’re finding empty shelves.

“We don’t have a food shortage in this country, it’s the panic buying that is the problem.

“We need people to stop being selfish and think of others, we’re trying to deliver up to 130 parcels a week.”

“Two of our volunteers were in the supermarket last week and were subjected to a long rant from a woman when she saw all the food in their trolley,” said Mrs Reynel.

Mrs Reynel said that she is facing a potential staff shortage as well – she estimates more than 70% of her volunteers are more than 70 years old and may be unable to help her if they self isolate.

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