brakes delivery lorry

The contract was launched in March as a rapid response to the coronavirus crisis

The government’s contract with foodservice giants Brakes and Bidfood to supply shield packs to people identified as clinically extremely vulnerable is being paused from today.

The contract was launched in March as a rapid response to the coronavirus crisis when the food industry was facing major disruption due to stockpiling and panic buying. Since then, the wholesalers have delivered more than five million shield packs.

The boxes contained more than 20 essential food and drink products, including pasta and rice. The wholesalers delivered 4.7 million packs in England and 800,000 in Scotland, with about 3,000 staff involved in the project.

“I want to thank all those involved at Brakes and Bidfood for the sterling work they have done to get food to the most vulnerable people in our society,” said environment secretary George Eustice.

“While the food boxes have come to an end, those who had registered for them will remain eligible for a priority supermarket delivery slot and the NHS Volunteer Responders Programme will continue to provide support with getting food, prescriptions and essential items to those who are self-isolating for any reason.”

In a joint statement, Brakes director of supply chain and operations Alex Mayfield and Jim Gouldie, supply chain and technical services director, Bidfood, said: “Everyone involved across both businesses have been so proud to have played a part in helping some of the nation’s most vulnerable people at a time when supporting them was so crucial. We had this scheme up and running in a matter of days and since then, every morning, hundreds of vehicles have left our depots carrying thousands of essential supplies across the country to those who need them.

“The number of calls, letters and messages on social media that we’ve received have been amazing. Our drivers have heard first-hand how these boxes have been a lifeline for the clinically extremely vulnerable receiving them throughout lockdown and we’re delighted to have been able to be a part of such a critical programme.”

Both Brakes and Bidfood were able to fulfill the contracts despite the coronavirus crisis having significant impacts on their trading. The wholesalers have taken major hits to sales due to the closure of the hospitality sector during lockdown.

Last month, The Grocer reported that Brakes and Bidfood had entered consultations with hundreds of staff over potential job cuts as they look to transform their operations in the wake of the pandemic.