Foodbank overwhelmed by kindness after crisis caused by coronavirus stockpiling

PUBLISHED: 08:49 18 March 2020

Uttlesford Foodbank in Saffron Walden. Picture: CONTRIBUTED.

Uttlesford Foodbank in Saffron Walden. Picture: CONTRIBUTED.

Archant

Uttlesford Foodbank has received overwhelming support from the community in an unexpected turn of events.

This newspaper checked on the situation faced by the foodbank in light of the coronavirus outbreak last week only to be told that it was struggling.

The service had been experiencing a record low number of food donations amid stockpiling caused by coronavirus fears.

The foodbank experienced a decrease of up to 25 per cent in food donations over two weeks, with certain items being particularly scarce.

Sophie Durlacher, project manager at Uttlesford Foodbank, said on Friday that it’s “a quiet time of the year anyway”, but noticed stock had been unusually low for two weeks.

“We usually have loads in stock, we are running low on rice and UHT milk. I only got half a cart of milk left, so if we don’t get any quickly, we will be out of it this time next week.

“We are fine with pasta and beans. But I can see us getting low quite quickly on tins, as that is what people are stockpiling.

“I am hoping for donations of chicken in sauce and things like that, I think those will be low quite quickly”.

Sophie said people are now shopping a lot online because of coronavirus, which made it very difficult for the foodbank to get hold of items – but that she thought people were “feeling guilty” because the foodbank keeps receiving toilet paper.

But on Monday there was an unexpected turn of events after the community responded to the foodbank’s emergency call.

A spokesperson for the foodbank said that two supermarkets urged them to collect a huge number of donations - and over £1,000 was donated to the foodbank in only two days:

“Today something amazing happened.

“Both Tesco and Waitrose rang to say we needed to come and collect as they had too many donations to cope with.

“I checked our virginmoneygiving account and we’ve had over £1,200 donated in 48 hours.

“People have been calling and emailing and dropping by, saying, ‘how can we help?’

“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Hundreds of people have shown their love on social media, with some saying they signed up for a monthly donation, and others offering to deliver foodbank bags to those who are part of vulnerable communities.

Sue Stockle, from Thaxted, commented: “Fantastic news. Most people ARE good. And massive thanks as always to yourselves at the foodbank for all that you do every week.”

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U), the local party of towns and villages, in charge of the Uttlesford District Council administration, have also reacted to the news: “Wonderful, wonderful Uttlesford folk. Foodbank donations had dramatically fallen. A call for help was put out, and this is what happened.”

A shortage in donations is not the only challenge the foodbank can experience at the present time.

Last week, Sophie said: “We are expecting an increase in demand in case people on zero-hour contracts are not getting work, and with self-employed people it generally is more difficult as well.”

In the event of a lockdown, she said “there will be children who got to be fed.

“Whatever happens, we will carry on getting food to people. We can’t let people starve. We will find a way, we may have to curtail the depths of the operation; if people are hungry, we will help feed them.

“We have hygiene practices in place at the foodbank, we are taking care if we have clients who are ill or self-isolating”.

She urges people to keep thinking of everybody at this moment in time.

If you would like to get involved with Uttlesford Foodbank or follow their journey, please go to their website https://uttlesford.foodbank.org.uk/ and to their Facebook page, Uttlesford Foodbank.

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