Morrisons gives food banks £10m during coronavirus outbreak

Supermarket lifts restrictions and reopens cafes as depots to allow customers to donate

Supermarket chain Morrisons is to distribute £10m worth of food to the UK’s food banks during the coronavirus outbreak by producing more fresh items from its own manufacturing sites and bolstering deliveries from its stores.

The UK’s largest fresh food manufacturer will this week ramp up production at its bakery, egg and fruit and vegetable packing site by an extra hour every day to make, prepare and pack essentials to help restock food banks.

The UK’s food banks have been struggling to meet demand at a time when the number of volunteers, typically older people, has slumped because of to self-isolation. It is estimated that the outbreak of Covid-19 has led to a 40% reduction in donations to community food banks across the country, when most are seeing demand for their services soar.

Morrisons is the only British supermarket to have its own sites supplying meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, bakery and other products that help to make more than half of the fresh food sold in its 495 stores. There are 14 Morrison production sites across the UK.

In common with the other large supermarket chains, Morrisons has been struggling with stocks as shoppers panic-buy.
In common with the other large supermarket chains, Morrisons has been struggling with stocks as shoppers panic-buy. Photograph: Robert Perry/EPA

David Potts, chief executive of Morrisons, said: “As a food maker and shopkeeper we are uniquely placed to help. We know food banks are finding life very difficult and running our manufacturing sites for an extra hour each day to help restock them is the right decision at this time.”

The retailer, which has 120,000 staff and typically serves more than 12 million customers every week, said it was planning for £10m worth of food to be distributed to food banks by July. It will also be sending deliveries of ambient food – such as canned goods and pasta – to its stores to also give to their local food bank.

To encourage customers to make donations, it is lifting purchase limits to four items and removing limits on some items altogether. Its in-store cafes – now closed for business – will be revamped as donation hubs.

Last week the the Co-op said it would donate £1.5m worth of food to the UK’s largest food redistribution charity FareShare, to help boost stocks and support local communities struggling because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Lindsay Boswell, FareShare chief executive, said: “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.”

FareShare, the UK’s largest hunger-fighting charity, is also appealing for more volunteers to help with its distribution operation.

The discount supermarket Lidl will this week start donating thousands of fresh fruit and vegetable bags to NHS staff in an effort to help provide frontline health workers with fresh produce.


Rebecca Smithers

The GuardianTramp

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