Foodbanks across the United Kingdom could be forced to close their doors to prevent the risk of spreading the Covid-19 Coronavirus, it has been reported.
A growing number of foodbanks fear they may need to temporary shut their doors to families in crisis, to protect volunteers and foodbank users and lessen the spread.
Campaigners worry that without food banks, families and their children will go hungry and left at greater risk of becoming a victim of Coronavirus because of poor health and malnutrition.
Islington foodbank is one of the first to take this “difficult” decision, but added they will reopen to local residents “as soon as feel it is safe to do”.
A spokesperson said: “We understand that we provide a service to vulnerable people who may need us now more than ever, but still feel this is the best way to keep our volunteers and clients safe and minimise the risk of infection.
“In addition, we need a minimum number of volunteers at each session to operate but with increasing numbers self-isolating we cannot guarantee that.
“And finally, our food supplied are running low with donations down and supermarkets limiting how much we can order.
“We will monitor the situation closely as it unfolds and will re-open as soon as we feel it is safe to do so.”
Another food bank in Sheffield has been forced to follow suit, adding that they have struggled to get with donations as more people panic buy and less food items get donated.
Sabine Goodwin, coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network, called on the UK government to improve the financial support available to low-income households.
“Dedicated volunteers have been depended on to provide emergency food parcels to those in need for too long,” she said.
“The spread of coronavirus means there’s a possibility that we may now no longer be able to count on their good will and generosity to keep food banks open.”
The UK’s largest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, say they have received a large number of questions about how the Coronavirus may impact on people needing food aid.
Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust said: “Time and again over the past decade, food banks across the UK – aided by a generous public who have donated time, food and money – have stepped up to protect people on the lowest incomes in our communities.
“But with the spread of coronavirus we all now face an unprecedented challenge and 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, due to 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.
“We’re working with our network on how best to support people as the situation unfolds. Wherever possible, food banks will continue to provide the lifeline of emergency food to people unable to afford the essentials and we encourage the public to continue donating after checking with their local food bank what items are most needed.”
She added: “We welcome the Department for Work and Pensions’ measures that will not penalise or sanction people for self-isolating, but we ask our government to go further and consider additional measures they could take to ensure everyone has enough money for essentials at this challenging time.
“Ending the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment would be one such measure that could help significantly.”