South Shields food bank "desperate" for donations as coronavirus stockpiling leaves shelves empty

A South Shields food bank is urging shoppers not to stockpile as a surge in panic-buying leaves them “desperate” for donations.

The Key 2 Life food bank, based on Boldon Lane, South Shields has been left struggling as shoppers stockpile essential items amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Food bank staff say a combination of intensifying fears as the virus continues to spread, and shops placing limits on how many items people can buy, have left them in desperate need of donations.

Manager Jo Benham-Brown at the Key 2 Life food bank.

“Last week we started to run low on supplies and couldn’t make as many parcels up, but things became really desperate this week,“ said Key 2 Life manager, Jo Benham-Brown.

“We had a woman come in yesterday who couldn’t get any milk for her baby.”

She continued: “People are stockpiling and being really cautious with their own items. They are becoming more and more anxious, so they might not feel in a position to donate.”

Empty shelves at the Key 2 Life food bank.

However, the food bank - which is the longest-running in South Tyneside - will come under increasing demand as the impact of Covid-19 is felt in the coming weeks.

“We’re going to see an increase in those accessing the food bank if people are to lose their jobs and be left unable to work,” said Jo.

“In addition, a lot of our volunteers are elderly and retired so they are being advised to self-isolate. It’s a really difficult situation at the moment.

“We’re hoping that the younger people who have been sent home from school or university will volunteer to help out.”

Empty shelves at the Key 2 Life food bank.

Jo continued: “In situations like this it is always the really poor who suffer disproportionately.

“The people who we see regularly haven’t got the funds to stockpile.”

On Sunday, March 15 some of the UK’s major supermarket retailers sent a joint letter to customers, urging them to shop responsibly and to work together to ensure there is enough food for everyone across the country.

Sainsbury's and Asda have now revealed they will only allow customers to buy a maximum of three of any single item, while Morrisons said it is limiting purchases across 1,250 lines.

Aldi has already introduced limits of four items per shopper across all products.

“The government is urging people not to stockpile and we would reiterate that and ask people to think about others who need supplies,” said Jo.

“The old adage ‘love thy neighbour’ seems relevant here, I’d ask people to look after those close to them and support their local food bank.”

She added: “We would be grateful for anything particularly those things that people might not think to donate, such as longlife milk, tinned goods, nappies, baby food and pet food.”

Key 2 Life is open Monday-Friday from 10am-4pm and is based at Boldon Library on Boldon Lane and has drop-off points around South Shields.

For more information or to volunteer contact 07833613393