Food banks call for urgent Government advice to help them stay open safely
Food banks are “extremely concerned” about staying open following the Government’s recent clampdown on activity and are appealing for urgent clarification on how they can most safely operate.
An increasing number of members of the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) are worried they may need to close amid efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
Food banks are concerned about potentially spreading Covid-19 among service users and an ageing volunteer base, and are also faced with venue closures and reduced access to food supplies.
They have 10 urgent questions they want the Government to answer to help them stay operating as safely as possible.
They are calling for guidance on how to best run doorstep food delivery operations, with some food banks turning to this model to avoid volunteers and service users gathering in one spot.
And they want advice for volunteers sorting through donations, packing emergency food parcels and setting up areas for distribution.
IFAN coordinator Sabine Goodwin said most of IFAN’s 293 food aid provider members had expressed concern about potentially having to close.
She said: “Independent food banks and food aid providers will do their utmost to stay open, but they’re having to make incredibly difficult decisions about the safety of their staff and volunteers and how exactly to support those in need in their communities with little guidance; reduced or no food supply; and increasing desperation in their midst.
“Independent emergency food aid providers struggling on the frontline need immediate and specific guidance and above all reassurance that the Government will do all it can to reduce the footfall to food banks through income-based solutions.”
Among the questions, food providers want to know if they need paperwork to continue operating.
Amid closures of churches and community buildings, they are asking whether these should be kept open for food distribution requirements.
If a provider is forced to shut, it wants clarification on which an agency or agencies will take responsibility for the people who would have previously been supported by the food bank.
Picture: A notice outside a food bank, as schools, non-essential shops, playgrounds and churches are closed as part of nationwide measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus. (Ewan Bootman/NurPhoto/PA).