Our main priority is ensuring the safety of everyone who comes to a food bank – whether it’s someone needing help, someone volunteering their time, or someone making a donation. Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, food banks face a difficult decision about whether they are able to stay open. Each food bank in our network is a local charity, run by a community for their local community, and each will be affected differently – so we’ll be working with each of them to look at what is safe for everyone involved.
Until we are confident that adequate government protection against poverty is in place, food banks provide an essential community service to people unable to afford food.
The latest government advice explains food banks can legally continue operating and buildings that host food banks can continue to open for those sessions, provided we follow social distancing rules, because your work qualifies you as key workers ‘caring for the vulnerable’.
At food banks, social distancing rules mean ensuring volunteers who are classed as ‘at risk’ because they are over 70 or have a health condition stay at home. It means making sure there are hand-washing facilities in any centre people are in, and everyone is asked to wash their hands regularly. It also means making big changes to the way centres work, to limit contact between people. This will look different in different centres, but it might mean:
- Instead of being invited into a centre, people referred are immediately given a pre-packed food bank parcel in a practical, dignified and compassionate manner
- Ensuring that wherever people are waiting, there is a large enough space for people to wait at least two metres apart
- A reduced number of food bank sessions per week
- Coordination with local agencies to give them pre-packed food bank parcels, or to deliver to people those agencies work with
The above is where we stand legally following the PM’s announcement but we will be working with each of the food banks in our network about what’s best for their local community.
The Trussell Trust will remain open and ready to support food banks in whatever difficult decision they make. If a food bank feels it can continue to run, in line with the government guidance and with the support of their volunteers and local community, we will do everything we can to support the food bank. If a food bank feels it is unable to open, we will look at how we can get work to get emergency food to people in that area who don’t have enough money for food, in a safe, alternative way.