'Extraordinary' effort as volunteers, council staff and police send out hundreds of food parcels for Lancaster district's most vulnerable

An emergency hub set up in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak has been packing and delivering up to 100 food parcels a day for those in need.

By Nick Lakin
Wednesday, 1st April 2020, 2:19 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st April 2020, 2:19 pm

Up to 40 people, including volunteers, Lancaster City Council staff and police officers, are working from the new base at Salt Ayre Leisure Centre to make sure those with the most need are able to eat.Lancaster Area Search and Rescue volunteers have been helping with logistics and planning routes for food delivery vans, while schools, churches, charities, councillors, health professionals and others have become referring agents so that they can refer residents for a food parcel by filling in an online voucher form.

Coun Joanna Young, chair of trustees at Morecambe Bay Foodbank, which is working in partnership with the city council and other organisations, said the multi-agency effort is "extraordinary" and praised everyone involved for pulling together at a time of major crisis.

Coun Dr Erica Lewis, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: "As a society, we have a duty to protect our most vulnerable members.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Police staff help out at the emergency hub at Salt Ayre

"We know that this public health crisis has made it increasingly difficult for people to access food, particularly those who were already struggling to make ends meet."

The council has set aside £1m to support vulnerable people, through partners in the voluntary, community and faith sector.

Some council staff have been redeployed to other roles, meaning, for example, supervisors at Salt Ayre's climbing wall are now helping to administer the emergency response effort.

Coun Young said: "I just can't cannot praise everyone highly enough.

Coun Joanna Young, chair of trustees at Morecambe Bay Foodbank.

"There's been an amazing response from the community.

"There are huge numbers of really vulnerable people, including people who previously thought they wouldn't be vulnerable, or people who haven't navigated the benefits system before and are struggling.

"We've prepared 300 food parcels this week alone up to Wednesday, which have been delivered directly to people within their homes.

"We've also built a website in five days, so we now have a way of processing vouchers online.

The emergency food hub at Salt Ayre

"There's a lot of packing going on to make sure we have enough and I think we should be able to handle whatever comes our way."

Last week, a new organisation called The Morecambe Bay Foundation was {https://www.lancasterguardian.co.uk/news/uk-news/urgent-appeal-cash-launched-lancaster-districts-most-vulnerable-2505748|set up to coordinate the community emergency response effort and raise money for community organisations across the Lancaster district that are working to mitigate the impact of the outbreak.

It is being coordinated by Lancaster District CVS, which is where people can also sign up to help out.

Donations can be made at www.totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/coronavirus.

Coun Young added: "We've had a really good response so far but having reserve volunteers is really important too in case we have to scale up further.

"We're in need of things like instant mash, long life milk ,tinned potatoes, long life juice, cereal, biscuits and Cup A Soup.

"The more items we get, the more sure we can be of our supply.

"If you need help, ask for it.

"We're trying to do everything we can to support people, and there is no shame in asking for help.

"This could be people who are self isolating, or with no online bank account, or no access to online shopping.

"It's our judgement that if people don't have enough to eat for whatever reason then they can access the service."

For help, call Citizen's Advice on 01524 400404, or Lancaster City Council on 01524 582000, or visit www.lancasterdistrictcovid19.org.uk.