Food redistribution charity FareShare has made an appeal for millions in extra funding amid fears the coronavirus outbreak will wreak havoc among vulnerable groups at risk of hunger.
The charity said it was calling for more money, food and volunteers amid concerns closures of schools, workplaces and public spaces, as well as people self-isolating, could lead to a major spike in demand.
It called on the government to provide at least £5m to help farmers, growers, manufacturers and distributors divert food without incurring additional costs.
The charity also issued an appeal to the food industry to step up and divert more surplus food to charities.
FareShare works with a network of 18 partner organisations covering the UK and provides almost one million meals a week to 11,000 front-line charities and community groups supporting vulnerable people.
But it said as the situation developed it anticipated a big increase in demand for its service.
FareShare said it was also concerned many of the charities it supports also provided communal meals which could be forced to close in the event of a lockdown.
It said it was putting into place emergency measures to try to ensure those at risk do not fall through the gap.
It looks set to shift food provision to food parcels that could be either given or collected by people in need, raster than supplying the ingredients for communal meals.
FareShare is also assessing the ability of its network of charities, including schools, to see how they could act as local redistributors of food parcels.
FareShare also issued an appeal for more volunteers to help in warehouses, drive vans and work in offices manage food orders.
“The situation around coronavirus is unprecedented and developing fast, and we are working as a UK-wide network of redistribution organisations to meet the changing needs of local organisations on the ground and ensure we are best prepared for all possible outcomes,” said FareShare CEO Lindsay Boswell.
“We continue to work with the food industry to redistribute surplus food and the support of government Defra funding has helped us unlock over 2,200 tonnes of additional food for charities, including fruit and veg. We hope that government will continue to fund this initiative which has proven effective in diverting large volumes of food to those in need.
“FareShare has capacity to double the volume of food we redistribute but in order to ensure those most vulnerable are protected, we urgently call on government, the food industry and public to help us step up to this challenge.”